The Scrappy, Feisty, Fox News GOP Debate

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Photo credit: Kathryn Porter

Leave it to FOX News for giving the American people the most entertaining debate ever broadcast on national television.

The Thursday night double-header FOX News GOP debates certainly gave the American people something to talk about in the weeks to come, reminding everyone that the 17 candidates are running for the highest office in the land and our future is at stake.

Many are disappointed at FOX’s performance, believing that Donald Trump was the target of abuse.  One person said “they gave a show Jon Stewart would never air”  and another said, “Miss America was asked harder questions.”

However one feels about Thursday night’s show, it was definitely a wake up call to remind us the stakes are high. Welcome to Election 2016.

The first debate (otherwise known as  the ‘Gang of 7’ or ‘kiddie table’ debate) was clearly dominated by Carly Fiorina with many saying she was the superstar of both debates.  Fiorina didn’t meet the eligibility criteria to participate in the main prime-time stage, but her strong performance was the buzz on social media throughout the evening.  Despite being the only candidate on the lower-tier debate without prior political experience,  Fiorina clearly demonstrated that her business skills, accomplishments, and knowledge of  political governing issues could definitely make her a viable candidate for president. Even Gov. Rick Perry mentioned Fiorina to explain his position on Iran:  

“I will tell you one thing, I would a whole lot rather have had Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation than John Kerry. Maybe we would’ve gotten a deal where we didn’t give everything away.”

Unlike the much calmer first debate, the primetime version was filled with fireworks.  

The first question was asked by Bret Baier to all the candidates:

“Gentlemen, is there anyone on stage, and can I see a show of hands, who is unwilling to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican Party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person?”

Donald Trump was the only one to raise his hand, which led to a spattering of applause along with loud boos from both the audience in the Quicken Loans Center as well as audiences outside in numerous debate watch parties held at East 4th Street.  It led to a bad start for Trump.

The Megyn Kelly matchup with Donald Trump was expected, as Kelly had stated numerous times on her show The Kelly Files that she was going to ask Trump hard-hitting questions. Her first question to the real estate mogul began, “Mr. Trump, you have called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals…”  Trump interrupted her and said, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.”  Kelly continued,

“No, it wasn’t.  Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice ‘it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees.’ Does that sound to you like the temperament of someone we should elect as president?”

Few thought it the debate would begin this way for Trump.  Despite all, according to polls conducted during and after the debate by the Drudge Report, Times, and RNC, Trump won with over 35%.  As for Megyn Kelly, the attacks from Trump fans have been overwhelming with Trump tweets adding more fuel to the fire.  (We’ll see how this resonates with female voters…)

Most of the audience expected a fight between Trump and Bush but few would thought Senator Rand Paul would be the “scrappier” candidate.  Paul, whose poll numbers have been dropping, seized the moment to remind voters he is not going away.  He pounced on Trump’s answer of pledging not to run a third-party candidacy if he failed to obtain the Republican nomination.

“This is what’s wrong!” Paul yelled from across the stage. “He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, so if he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton, or maybe he runs as an independent. But I’d say that he’s already hedging his bets, because he’s used to buying politicians.”

Paul took another step on the offensive, this time going after Gov. Chris Christie for his stance on the NSA. The New Jersey Governor was asked about government surveillance and his comment pushed a button with Paul that led him to another explosion about the NSA.  Paul said he “wants to collect records, but from terrorists, not all Americans.”  Gov. Christie replied that was ‘completely ridiculous’.  “’I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.’ How are you supposed to know the difference?” Paul stressed the importance of the 4th Amendment and obtaining a warrant, which led Christie to comment about how “Senators talk and do nothing.”

“Listen, Senator,” Gov. Christie said to Rand Paul, “you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that.”

Christie’s comment led to Paul giving the K-O blow of the night, bringing up a subject that has haunted Gov. Christie for years:

“I don’t trust President Obama with our records.  I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.”

The audience burst into laughter.  Paul’s outbursts definitely gave him the push he may have needed for further name recognition, so don’t count Rand Paul out at the next main stage debate.

The overall disappoint of this debate was the lack of airtime equality among the ten candidates.  With ten candidates vying for time on a 2 hour show (or approximately 100 minutes with commercials), that equates to about 10 minutes airtime for each candidate. Unfortunately even that was not the case for Dr. Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz.

Governor Scott Walker was asked a question about race relations and the controversial Black Lives Matter movement plaguing the nation.  The governor mentioned his state’s county Sheriff David Clarke and said,

“It’s about making sure that law enforcement professionals, not only on the way into their positions, but all the way through their time, have the proper training, particularly when it comes to the use of force, and that we protect and stand up and support those men and women who are doing their jobs in law enforcement.”

Hopefully the issue of racial division (fueled in part by people like Al Sharpton) and the vilifying of our local police will be addressed in future debates.  It is time for the Republican Party to be a bridge builder and stop allowing police to be political punching bags, as Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is doing to garner hate votes.

With 17 candidates, men and women with diverse backgrounds and different broad range of views on critical issues, it is certainly going to be a wild ride and the Fox debate will definitely take over the media airwaves for the next week.

Until the next debate in September…..

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a PolitiChicks political reporter based in New York City covering politics and NYPD. She reports broadly on the 2016 campaign trail from the road and at home. Prior to joining PolitiChicks, Mona started with Wayne Dupree's WAAR where she covered NY politics, 2014 mid-term elections, and the NYPD. In 2015, DC Gazette considers Mona as one of the 20 rising Conservative stars. She was cited as "generally one of the most stunning women in political commentary with a huge future ahead of her, we’re pretty sure Mona Salama will soon easily be the next Andrea Tantaros and a common conservative household name." Currently she is finishing her Masters, all while at the same time covering the 2016 Presidential race, in Public Policy at John Jay College in New York City. Mona can be followed on twitter at @MonaSalama_ and email: [email protected]

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