The Fox Business debate was the most substantive one we’ve seen this cycle. Who won it?
Now that’s an illustration of why moderators matter. The Fox Business debate last night was the best and most substantive debate of the presidential cycle thus far, and it still managed to be interesting (well, unless you’re Glenn Thrush). As it turns out, it’s not that hard to ask serious and challenging questions of the candidates on economic policy. Questions on politicization of the Fed and the hard question of bailouts provoked serious answers from the candidates, and even did so by pushing against the usual assumptions that animate Fox Business’ coverage.
The fights that happened were overwhelmingly about ideology, not personality, and the sparks that flew between the candidates were overwhelmingly based on disagreements about governance and record, not name calling. The Fox Business team and Jerry Seib and Gerard Baker ought to be applauded today for showing everyone how it’s done, and I’m not just saying that because they asked, by my count, 5 out of the 7 questions I hoped they would. And again, this isn’t about ideology – it’s about how serious you want the debate to be. Neal Cavuto can be excused for spiking the football at the end – they deserved it.
The transcript of the debate is here. As for the candidates, in rough order of performance:
TED CRUZ: Ted Cruz proved that he didn’t need to assault the media to turn in an impressive performance. The top four in my view were all ahead of the rest, and could be put in roughly any order, but it was the strong answer to the bailout question that put him over the top in my view. The contrast was obvious – the question was a challenge for Jeb Bush; Ben Carson muddled through with vague promises; and Marco Rubio gave a so-so response; but none of them gave a clear answer on what they would do differently in the same situation. Then Cruz absolutely dominated it. He even got an assist from John Kasich coming in and acting like principles go out the window the instant people are hurting. The 90 second timeframe benefited Cruz enormously, and the moderators kept giving him more time – he ended up with the most talking time of any of them.