Last night the Republican presidential candidates squared off for the last time before the Iowa caucuses, which are now just three days away. Each of the leading candidates was there – except for Donald Trump, who stayed away because Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly was mean to him five months ago. So in answering the question of who won the debate we can start with who lost – Donald Trump. By skipping the only debate in Iowa, my guess is he will pay dearly.
As for the winner of the debate, each candidate did a good job of making his point, as did those on the “undercard” event. To pick a winner is very subjective. There were no knockout punches, and each candidate did what they do best. Having said that, it seems these three did particularly well.
1. Marco Rubio – He had the line of the night when he said, “The first thing Hillary will do as president is to pardon herself.” Rubio wins points on connecting with the audience and positioning himself as the generational candidate. He did a good job of being forceful without looking angry. His faith statement was the best he has offered to date.
2. Ted Cruz – He offered the best opening remarks, praising Iowans and connecting with the audience. A master debater, Cruz scored a lot of points, but also looked petty in an early confrontation with Chris Wallace, one of the moderators. He was strong, but came off angry.
3. Chris Christie – The New Jersey Governor was concise, direct, and detailed. He is the only candidate who looks into the camera, addressing the 15 million viewers rather than the three moderators. Christie was strong in his contention that he is best equipped to confront Hillary Clinton on the debate stage.
Fox News did an excellent job in moderating the debate before a rowdy crowd. The questions were balanced and well-prepared. It would have been nice if Mr. Trump had been there, but his absence allowed the others more time to state their cases in a reasonable way. In reality, there were several winners and only one loser.