Grading the Reagan Library Presidential Debate

On September 16th, the CNN held the GOP second debate at the Reagan Presidential in Simi Valley, California. The debate was essential in showing the spectrum that is starting to emerge within the primary, and where each of the candidates lies on this spectrum. The Minnesota Republic would like to present to you, our readers, our review of each of the candidates and their performance during the debate, which will be shown with a letter grade.

Scott Walker continued to struggle to survive in the overcrowded pack of candidates. Originally thought to be a chief rival to Jeb Bush, Walker was very much sidelined by the arrival of Trump and his boisterous rhetoric. However, Scott Walker’s come back to the Republican frontrunner, “We don’t need another apprentice in the White House” was both timely and well articulated. However, the main problem for Walker is the voters seeming belief in claims that Wisconsin is “losing $2.2 billion dollars” as Trump claims. Whether or not these claims are true or not, Walker’s constant attacks on Trump only drew more emphasis on Wisconsin’s economic problems. This debate was perhaps indicative to Walker that his campaign was over, because on September 21 he dropped out of the 2016 GOP primary race.

Grade: D

Despite many claiming that Ted Cruz is a master at debating, he has been unable to steal the headlines at either of the GOP debates. Considering Cruz is competing with Huckabee for the religious right’s support, during the second debate he was unsuccessful. While perhaps Huckabee holds the high ground in this face-off due to his support for Kim Davis recently, Cruz definitely did not make the gains necessary during the second GOP debate.


In the medical profession there is the term of bedside manner, and this is the best way to describe Carson’s approach to the debate. He was not willing to engage in an argument with Trump over the way in which vaccines do not cause autism in children. Perhaps its best though to have a mild manner toward a dying candidate, even if it means not making any gains following the debate yourself.


Donald Trump defined his background as, “I built a phenomenal business with incredible iconic assets”. Much as before Donald Trump fell back on his successes in business to make-up for his lack of any real political experience. However, Trump fell into some serious traps this time around. Both Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina were able to score some major hits on Trump’s credibility as not only a conservative, but also a viable candidate. While Trump was able to make some clever comebacks, he was unable to steal the show as he did during the first debate. This decrease in momentum could be potentially disastrous for his campaign, but only time will tell if this is the case.


Rand Paul stuck to a libertarian ideology throughout the debate; America should stay out of the foreign conflicts and should focus on limiting the size of American government. While Rand Paul’s platform during the debate showed nothing new about his already well defined stance, it was able to stay strong in the face of serious policy questions, which will obviously be critical as the primary continues.


Mike Huckabee had the demeanor of a preacher at his pulpit during the debate; it was enjoyable. Huckabee’s unswerving belief in upholding the rights of Christians within the United States has made him the champion of the religious right. While both Huckabee and Cruz are very much the main representative at this point of conservative Christians, it was definitely Huckabee who was most successful in communicating to this group during the debate, with far less speaking time. He also made a memorable soliloquy on the “criminalization of Christianity in the United States”.


Chris Christie tried to separate himself from the rest of candidates by putting greater emphasis on the audience. From the start of the debate, Chris Christie asked that CNN “take the camera off [him] and put it on the audience”. Throughout the debate, Christie tried to portray himself as the everyman. During a back and forth between Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump, Christie interjected stating “I’m as entertained as anyone by this personal back and forth about the history of Donald and Carly’s career, for the 55 year old construction worker out of a job in the audience…they could care less about your careers. Let’s start talking about theirs.” While it has yet to be seen if Chris Christie’s strategy will be effective it was definitely effective in separating him from the other candidates.


Jeb Bush: “More energy, I like that” was what Trump said about Jeb Bush at one point in the debate. And he was right. Jeb Bush, who has been accused of being a bit of pushover to Trump’s bombast took a stand at the debate and was able to make himself look like a capable candidate. He also made a masterful attack at Trump in his response to the questioning that he was bought and paid for due to the hundreds of millions of dollars Jeb Bush’s campaign has raised from donors. “People are supporting me cause they know I have a proven record of conservative leadership…the one guy who had some special interest…and gave me money was Donald Trump”. Trump’s inability to refute these claims will be critical blow to his credibility, which will of course greatly help Jeb Bush.


Marco Rubio gave another solid debate performance. In invoking the memory of his grandfather; a proud American only able to speak Spanish, Rubio proved he is still very much an attractive candidate for the coveted latino vote. Throughout the debate he came across as knowledgeable in foreign affairs and conservative solutions to domestic problems.


Carly Fiorina dominated the second debate. She seemed to have the answers that stirred up the crowd, but were also witty and well articulated. The first question of the night, she answered brilliantly by stating that, “One of the benefits of a Presidential campaign is the character, capability, judgement, and temperament of every single [candidate] is revealed over time and under pressure.” Throughout the debate, Fiorina established that she was able to show the right amount of character, capability, judgement, and temperament required to be the GOP nominee. Also, her response to the ridiculous question of if she would change the ten or twenty dollar bill to have a woman’s face on it was indicative of these good traits; “I wouldn’t change the $10 bill or the $20 bill. I think honestly it’s a gesture. I don’t think it helps to change our history”


John Kasich delivered a solid performance where he showed himself as an experience politician. Kasich started off by stating that he had “Actually flown on [Reagan’s presidential jet] with Ronald Reagan when he was a Congressman and [Reagan’s] goals and [his] goals were pretty much the same”. Throughout the debate Kasich took a firm stance for supporting conservative principles, however, was not afraid to support negotiating bipartisan solutions. Ronald Reagan, was well known for sticking to his conservative ideals, however, he was also know for negotiating with people he may not have agreed with. Integral to Reagan’s character was respect and It was his ability to do this that allowed Reagan to be the effective president and a symbol for the conservative movement going forward. John Kasich was the true embodiment of Reagan during the second debate.