Did you hear about the ratings? Over 24 million people watched the first Republican debate Thursday. That's the largest audience ever for a cable program, save for sports.
Everybody knows why so many watched: people wanted to see a fight break out between Chris Christie and Rand Paul.
Donald Trump's presence probably didn't hurt. Let me clarify that. Trump's appearance helped rating. His performance might have ended his campaign.
Donald Trump comported himself with all the dignity and gravitas of a George W. Bush as portrayed by Will Ferrell.
At the risk of receiving angry tweets from Trump and his minions, I tweeted:
Best result of tonight's debate: Trump is done. #GOPDebate
— Bill Hennessy (@whennessy) August 7, 2015
There's plenty of good analysis of the candidates' substance, so I won't get into that. Instead, I tried to watch the debate like the majority of American voters. They don't like politics, but they figure it's their duty to vote with a bit of knowledge.
Who Else Lost Ground
Trump was not alone in turning off voters. Governor Jeb Bush struggled. He seemed a little needy at times, like a kid who wants to be left alone with his toys at his own birthday party. He defended his unpopular positions mostly by saying "I know better."
Senator Rand Paul, with whom I probably most agree, needs a bit more seasoning. I never looked at him and thought "Mr. President."
Senator Ted Cruz, I'm afraid, suffers with familiarity. I honestly can't put my finger on what it is about Senator Cruz that irritates me, but something does. Anecdotally, I'm not alone. When people ask themselves which candidate they'd like to hear speaking on the news every day for four years, Cruz won't be the answer.
Governor Scott Walker struck me as smug and a little arrogant. He memorized lines and recited them like a high school senior accepting his Prom King crown. And I so wanted him to do well.
Who Did Well
Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie performed well. Neither man wins on conservative values, but I like them more as people after their performance. Christie gets points for having the courage to propose changes to Social Security which is an important safety net that's about to rupture from too much weight.
Senator Marco Rubio could smile more, but he seemed at times the readiest to be President. His speaking style would wear well over four or eight years of constant news about him. The panel on MSNBC declared him the winner by a mile. That might overstate the case, but he did very well.
Governor John Kasich might be the most electable in a general election. He is smart and quick. His sarcasm comes across as sincere. He never seemed to be giving a prepared speech, which afflicted all but one of his debate partners. Katich will suffer in the primaries over Medicaid Expansion, but his very popular in Ohio, and Republicans will not win the White House without his state.
No one. But Dr. Ben Carson won a lot of hearts. He was the most human. Somehow, when he explained that he's separated conjoined twins and performed amazing neurological surgeries it came off as if he were apologizing. I believe his humility is sincere. His closing statement was absolutely brilliant, and the words themselves were too simple, the structure too casual, to have been scripted.
At some point before the Republican Convention, the electorate's mood will coalesce. After ten years of heated, cynical attacks and great suffering through wars, terrorism, mass shootings, and chronic underemployment that afflicts so many families, I believe the national mood will crave a human voice, a gentle spirit, and a confident smile. Those qualities will trump ideological purity and mad-as-hell bombast.
Ben Carson might not appeal to the dogma worshippers on the right, but he could win the love and respect of millions of people who simply want to get through life the best they can in an America renewed of spirit and prosperity. Sort of like 1980.
I'll leave you with Ben Carson's closing words:
But I am very hopeful that I am not the only one who is willing to pick up the baton of freedom. Because freedom is not free and we must fight for it every day. Everyone of us must fight for it because we are fighting for our children and the next generation.
--Dr. Ben Carson
Thank you for reading. May you have a blessed weekend, friends.