I watched the GOP debate from start to finish last night. I thought it was one of the most useful and entertaining debates I’ve watched in years. I was prepared to turn it off if it just became all about Trump. He didn’t show up and his roiling issues are not my issues. I wanted to hear about what the candidates thought about the issues that matter to me and my neighbors – inflation, border security, education, foreign policy, etc. With rare exception, that’s what I got. It was good to see an actual debate that displayed the rich spectrum of opinions in the Republican Party on important issues.
Here are my short thoughts on each candidate:
Gov. Doug Burgum – I was impressed with his clarity of thought and conservatism. His message harkening back to the small-town values that we used to cherish was refreshing. He came across as a man of substance who knows his own mind.
Gov. Chris Christie – I had already struck Christie from my list of candidates to consider based on his long history, but he was highly entertaining in the debate. He stole the show at times with his zingers and attacks. We all know that he’s just in to trash Trump and Trumpism and he was effective.
Gov. Ron DeSantis – This debate was DeSantis’ to lose. When one has the kind of successful record he has, his ability to debate is a rather meaningless skill. Still, he had to hold his own and he did. He came across a little wooden at times, but he was forceful and clear in pointing out his record and how he has actually already governed in the way many of us would like to see the President govern.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – I’ve always liked Haley even though I disagree with her on several issues. She rhetorically murdered Vivek on stage over foreign policy and her answer on abortion was thoughtful and compassionate.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson – Hutchinson came off as a bit old and out of touch. He lost me with his characterization of the January 6 incident.
Vice President Mike Pence – I’ve also always liked Pence. He’s a rock-solid conservative who proved it in multiple offices. He came across as the sincere man of substance that he is. His attempt to thread the needle between supporting Trump and reminding people that he was a conservative’s conservative before it was cool is too small an eye for him to win, but he would be a great president.
Vivek Ramaswamy – I was prepared to like Vivek. I’d seen snippets and he’s young, passionate, and forthright with his thoughts. Seeing him in long form is to see an arrogant, flippant ass with thoughts as thin as prison gruel. He’s off my list.
Sen. Tim Scott – Of all the candidates, Scott is my personal favorite. He is sincere, nice, thoughtful, conservative, and tells the story of America that we all want to hear. He is also boring. Again, when it comes to choosing a president, their debating skill is about 1,346,901 on the priority list of important things, but he needed to make hit a bullseye and he missed.