By Emily Leayman
The second Republican presidential debate, held by CNN on Sept. 16 at the Reagan Presidential Library, was in some aspects better and worse than the previous one. I am a proud Republican, but I still find cringe-worthy moments from both the candidates and moderators.
Here are my highlights of best and worst from the debate:
1. Kiddie table debate
The first debate, dubbed “the kiddie table,” was more pathetic than last time. Fox’s lower-tier debate had seven candidates, and that number dropped to four with Carly Fiorina moving up to the primetime debate and Rick Perry dropping out. Without a standout candidate like Carly Fiorina participating, it was hard to find a clear winner.
Worse yet, the candidates bickered over frontrunner Donald Trump. And the topic spread like wildfire to the second debate, as moderator Jake Tapper brought up Trump as the first question to Fiorina. Trump himself added fuel to the fire by bouncing off the question to attack Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
2. Candidates were provoked
A lot of the questions Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt asked were “this candidate said something negative about you. How do you respond?” Those kinds of questions make me think the network was aiming for ratings rather than exploring the issues.
3. Three-hour debate
I think anyone watching the debate noticed how long the debate dragged on. Ticking up to over three hours with few limited commercial breaks, it was tiring for both viewers and the candidates. In an interview with CNN after the debate, Trump, who praised CNN for an overall successful debate, complained that it was too long.
1. Issue coverage
But within those three hours, the candidates covered a lot of ground. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz—whom I can attest to being a fantastic orator—had his shining moments criticizing the Iran nuclear deal and Planned Parenthood funding. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson vouched for a flat tax plan, Fiorina outlined her approach to Iran and Israel and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio provided specifics on fixing illegal immigration in the U.S. Even so, key topics like student loan debt were notably left out.
2. Less Trump time
Like the Fox debate, Trump again held first for most airtime. But during discussions of the Iran deal, he was mostly silent. I don’t think the camera even glanced at Trump. Seeing that he still needs to hire military and foreign policy advisors, he could not demonstrate as much knowledge on those issues. And with other political outsiders like Carson and Fiorina on the rise, we could expect to see less of Trump in future debates.
3. More Carly Fiorina
The former Hewlett-Packard CEO’s skyrocketing poll numbers paid out as CNN’s debate rule changes allowed Fiorina to move to the top debate. And since Fox host Megyn Kelly wasn’t at the debate this time to provide the feminist voice against Trump, Fiorina more than filled the shoes. When Trump’s comment about Fiorina’s face came up, she responded, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” to loud applause. Throughout the three-hour program, Fiorina provided calm, informative responses, which allowed her to stand out among her angry, defensive male counterparts. Her performance was truly worthy of a future president.
Two Republican debates came and went, and the first Democratic debate is finally less than a month away. CNN will return as host for the Oct. 13 debate—this time in Nevada.
I for one am ready to trade in The Trump Show for Hillary Clinton Scandal Hour. The exchange between the establishment Clinton and anti-establishment Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will delight viewers, regardless of the party. The next GOP debate, hosted by CNBC, is Oct. 28.
Speaking as a Republican, journalist and American citizen, watching at least one debate for each party should be a priority for
everyone. After all, hearing from a candidate you disagree with just motivates you even more to rush to the ballot box on Election Day 2016.