The first Republican Presidential Debate was held last night. There were two of them if you counted the “Kids’ Table” debate earlier, which included presidential hopefuls polling outside of the top 10. Anyone who tuned in hoping for the Donald Trump show was not disappointed since Trump was the event’s main draw. The first question out of the gate was aimed at him, essentially asking, “Can you please promise not run as a third-party candidate?” Trump, pouting and nodding, said he wouldn’t promise anything, won’t rule out going rogue.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was the first to tussle with Trump on the main stage. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee made a sly dig at Trump in his closing statement, but instead shifted his focus to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Leading establishment candidates like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker instead avoided direct or indirect engagement with Trump, trying to keep their distance from the lightning rod. Everyone’s scrambling around Trump in some way, and it’ll continue as long as the Donald is in the running. The laughs will keep coming.
Fox News’ moderators during the big debate were Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly, and Brett Baier. Each asked some surprisingly pointed questions of several of the candidates rather than serving up underhands and softballs. It was clear that part of the point of this first debate was to cull some of the herd, and Trump complained afterwards that he didn’t think his questions were particularly fair (or balanced, wakka wakka wakka). It remains to be see if any culling will occur just one debate in. The next Fox-televised debates will be in Wisconsin in November (on Fox Business) and just ahead of the Iowa caucuses in January (on Fox News). Assuming the field remains as large as it is through Iowa, culling might continue to be the name of the game.
Let’s do a brief rundown of the highlights, lowlights, winners, losers, and applause lines/zingers of the first Republican Presidential Debate.