Mainstream media surprised by Republican debate as Rubio, Cruz, Fiorina score
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What can best be described as “Hunger Games: Parts I and II” kicked off with more than three full hours of GOP debate in Cleveland Thursday and with more action and drama than the movies by the same name.
In the main debate, casino mogul Donald Trump ran into a buzzsaw of tough questions and quickly found himself flailing wounded on center stage.
Where Trump faltered, conservative Sens. Marco Rubio, Fla., and Ted Cruz, Tex., were more than happy to take advantage. Rubio was consistent throughout the debate conjuring up great images for a future America and being tough when needed. At one point bashing Planned Parenthood, Rubio emphasized his pro-life record and said: “Generations will look back at us and call us barbarians” for abortion.
When asked about God, Rubio gave a comment that fit his evening’s theme: “God has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can’t even find one.”
Cruz wasn’t to be outdone, drawing more Google search attention than anyone. He told viewers the “We need a commander in chief that speaks the truth. We will not defeat radical Islamic terrorism so long as we have a president unwilling to utter the words, radical Islamic terrorism.” Cruz scored big with Frank Luntz’s debate watchers, too, who loved that comment.
While the top candidates from Zones 1 and 2 ripped each other apart, the earlier debate held out for and found a hero(ine).
The debate, nicknamed #kidstable on Twitter, was led by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina who put on her best Katniss Everdine performance. All she needed was a bow and to turn her criticism of Hillary to “President Snow” and the image would have been complete. Like the Jennifer Lawrence character, Fiorina wiped up the floor with her competitors.
The National Journal’s Ron Fournier was in the Carly Camp, too. “Best performance (that’s what this is about, right?): #Carly2016.”
Even The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza gave her props. “I guarantee you someone (or someones) in the 9 pm debate will be less polished than Fiorina.”
CNBC politics writer John Harwood summed up Fiorina’s success as well as anyone. “Is that @CarlyFiorina or @RondaRousey thrashing those dudes?”
Off course, none of that mattered to the major media who chose hometown Gov. John Kasich as the winner. The Cleveland crowd was strong for their governor, but Kasich won over the media with a gay-friendly answer. Business Insider called it “a touching answer” The New York Times said, “John Kasich Wins Points on Gay Marriage Answer.”
ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl predictably complied. “The winner? @JohnKasich. Home field advantage helped and he made the most of it,” he Tweeted.
While conservative voters likely didn’t pick Kasich for the top spot, the top debate featured no other serious gaffes and high points for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Fox News sponsored the two-part debate, letting a combination of polls pick the top 10 candidates. Fox (Spoiler Alert: Fox News also runs Foxnews.com. Shocker, I know) ended up taking center stage itself, earning stunned comments for tough questions in both debates.
Simon Maloy, a political writer for liberal Salon, noted that the first debate began with tough questions. “[E]every question has been “this is how you suck. your response?” The second debate was even tougher with Fox shocking the media world by making Republicans answer tough questions.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, joked about buying the debate if it “was a pay-per-view for $19.99.” Mashable actually said, “Fox News won the GOP debate.” Buzzfeed Editor Ben Smith credited Fox News President Roger Ailes as “clearly the winner of this.” Liberal Huffington Post headlined its front page simply: “Ailes 2016.”
The respect flowed from the journalistic community, especially for moderator and host Megyn Kelly. Roll Call/CQ reporter Steven Dennis commented, “Megyn Kelly bringing the heat tonight.” New York Times magazine contributing writer Julia Ioffe gave her similar props. “Megyn Kelly is kicking serious wedge issue.” And @CNNPolitics Breaking News Editor Rebekah Metzler declared,“Megyn Kelly is winning this debate so far #GOPDebate.” NPR’s Eric Deggans noted Kelly gave, “the question of the night to Trump, referencing his past liberal views: “when did you become a Republican?”
Even sometime journalist and full-time presidential daughter Chelsea Clinton was complimentary. “They’re doing a great job. Raising the quality of debate,” she said of the Fox debate team.
Ultimately, liberals were unhappy, which means the GOP did something right.
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