The ninth Republican presidential debate brought back front runner Donald Trump and saw the field brought down to six candidates. With the South Carolina Primary right around the corner this debate was one of the most contentious of this primary season. CBS News hosted this debate in Greenville, South Carolina.
The debate touched on issues from foreign policy to immigration to health care but the shadow hanging over the debate was the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The questions began with the upcoming struggle that will play out in the Senate. President Obama will choose a nominee and Republican senators will try to stall him until there is another president. Most of the responses were just to delay and shift the responsibility to the senators in the fight. The debate quickly moved on from there.
On the left edge of the debate was Governor John Kasich trying to capitalize on his second place finish in New Hampshire.
Kasich stayed out of the fray and didn't receive much attention. I find it odd that he got pushed to the side for Jeb Bush but I'm not sure how CBS News chose their podium lineup. Kasich pointed out some of the flaws of the other candidates' plans and highlighted his success in Ohio. He didn't make much waves but he also didn't damage his reputation much. It will be interesting to see if his ground game can continue to succeed in the next few primaries and caucuses. He had to defend himself for his Democratic support.
On the other side of the podium was Dr. Ben Carson who is reeling with several low turnouts but hoping to turn his campaign around in the following month.
Carson didn't get much time to speak, as usual but got a little time at the end to spout talking points of a typical conservative. He may gain momentum with a strong finish in South Carolina but I think he is the next candidate to drop out. Carson still seemed lost on issues of immigration and foreign policy but has support out there.
Merging into the inner podiums was the next candidate to possibly drop is the beleaguered former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush.
Bush's main approach to his campaign is attacked the frontrunner, which has not worked out in his favor. His finishes in both New Hampshire and Iowa were pitiful yet Jeb took a fourth place finish as a sign that his campaign still had life. He has tons of money to continue his campaign and hopes to achieve the mantle of the establishment candidate. He has also attacked Kasich and Marco Rubio because he sees them as his first obstacles before he can move up to the top tier candidates. I can't see him continuing if voters do not show up for him in South Carolina and Nevada.
Bush's protege and the Senator of Florida Marco Rubio is trying to make a comeback after a third place finish in Iowa then a drop to fifth in New Hampshire after a terrible debate performance in the last round. But his bully Chris Christie is gone so Rubio hoped to take it to the next level and achieve first place victory with a solid debate performance.
Rubio clashed with Ted Cruz on immigration and tried to appear strong. I just don't think that he can regain momentum that he lost. His defeat will only lead to another attempt in a few years unless he totally messes up. He has recovered from mistakes before but often has lofty speeches to try to change it.
One of the top two candidates and the winner of the Iowa caucus Texas Senator Ted Cruz continued to make it through these debates unscathed.
Cruz had a few skirmishes with Donald Trump and Rubio but none of those discussions damaged Cruz. He continues to poll well and it is clear his focus is on South Carolina. Cruz hopes to take several of the states in the South giving him enough delegates to be a competitor when it comes time for the convention.
Finally in the front of polls and the winner of the New Hampshire Primary was businessman Donald Trump.
Trump used his return to the debate stage to fling insults and ridicule the other candidates. Trump knows that now he has competition in Cruz but was unable to gain much ground. Most of his contentious interactions were with Jeb Bush and his outcry against the war in Iraq got a mixed reaction from the crowd. Trump is also the candidates most focused on immigration and with the most extreme views so he garnered both positive and negative attention on this issue. It will be interesting to see if his message resonates with the Republican voters of South Carolina.
The next week will be filled with political back and forth especially as the President begins his decision on the next Supreme Court Justice but another primary will help and hinder the Republican candidates. There is still a week from now until the South Carolina Primary but I am picking Ted Cruz to win with his strength among evangelicals. The Democrats next competition is in Nevada where I think Bernie Sanders will have a good showing but fail to defeat Hillary Clinton. I will post again next week after the results are in!