The ABC Republican Presidential Debate in New Hampshire: A Review

Cruz on Debate

Could U.S. Senator Ted Cruz gain ground in New Hampshire after the Republican Presidential Debate that aired on ABC Saturday evening?  ABC’s David Muir and Martha Raddatz moderated the debate televised on ABC from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The top seven Republican candidates sparred on a variety issues during the more than two-and-a-half hour broadcast. Among the issues: the definition of conservatism, illegal immigration policy, job creation, the economy, the tax structure, how to combat ISIS, Libya, interrogation tactics, the heroin epidemic, race in America, selective service and abortion.

Cruz specified his plan on illegal immigration. He avoided opponents’ attacks. He drew applause when discussing how to defeat ISIS. “We should use overwhelming force, kill the enemy and then get out,” said Cruz.  He appeared to strike a softer note when speaking about his half-sister’s struggle with drugs that led to her death. “My older sister Miriam, who was my half-sister, struggled her whole life with drug addiction,” Cruz said. “About five or six years ago, Miriam died of an overdose. This is an absolute epidemic. We need leadership to solve it.” He turned it into a border issue vowing to end the deluge of drugs flowing into the country through Mexico.

Senator Marco Rubio was not so lucky. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gunned for him. Christie said Rubio did not have the experience as a first-term Senator to serve as Commander-in-Chief. The Governor accused Rubio of avoiding questions and delivering a 25-second canned advisor-prepared speech. Rubio repeated his attack on President Obama several times. “This is a President who wants to change this country,” Rubio said. “Barack Obama is indeed trying to change this country.” Rubio reinforced his belief that taxes should not be raised. “The solution we have to the problems today is not a tax increase,” Rubio said.


In an effort to distinguish himself from Rubio, Christie cited his Executive Experience as Governor. “Every morning when I wake up I think ‘What kind of problem do I need to solve for the people who actually elected me” said Christie. He took aim at the Obama Administration for how its handling of the Veterans Administration. He asked veterans “Do you think Barack Obama knows what he’s doing? I don’t.” Christie says he does not believe those earning more than $1 million per year should pay more taxes. He says millionaires being forced to pay more taxes led to 70 billion dollars in wealth leaving New Jersey. Christie also says he believes a woman should be able to terminate a pregnancy in the case of rape or incest.

Retired Neurosurgeon Ben Carson basically gave Ted Cruz a pass, despite the Senator’s campaign having sent out an Email in Iowa saying Carson was dropping out of the race. Cruz apologized saying CNN had reported that Carson was dropping out. Carson took the opportunity to talk about Washington ethics — saying his ethics are guided by doing what is right. Carson tried to show he had command of international affairs. He addressed running against Hillary Clinton if he won the Republican nomination. He says the contrast between himself and Clinton would be easy. “I would simply make it a referendum on honesty and integrity versus deceit and the Washington way, ” Carson said.

Real estate developer and former reality television star Donald Trump avoided being attacked by Cruz who has been trying to narrow Trump’s lead. Cruz skirted the issue when asked if Trump had presidential temperament. Trump focused on jobs — saying he will increase employment opportunities. “I’m going to bring jobs back and I’ll start bringing them back very fast,” Trump said. “We’re not going to lose Pfizer, which is now leaving,” Trump said. “We’re going to have a tax structure that is going to keep them (companies) in our country.” As with past debates, Trump was long on zingers and short on details.


Ohio Governor John Kasich has said if he gets elected, the definition of Conservatism would change. He cited cutting taxes in his state more than any other United States Governor. Kasich says the most important issue is economic growth. He says Conservatism should allow everyone to rise so they can live out their God-given purpose. Kasich says as governor he has taken Ohio from an $8 billion dollar hole to a $2 billion dollar surplus. “When you cut taxes by 5 billion dollars and you grow over 400,000 jobs, that is a record you can take to Washington,” Kasich said. “Do you know how hard it is to get a federal budget balanced?” Kasich said, referencing his role as Budget Committee Chair in Congress.

Jeb Bush failed to grab much screen time or make much of an impression. He says we need to create more millionaires, when asked if those earning more than a million dollars per year should pay more taxes. When asked about Libya, Bush says he supports renewed airstrikes. Bush says he thinks the government has to make more of a leadership role in Libya. “If you don’t have a stable government, you get what you have in Libya,” Bush said. He referred people to his website for specific details on his proposals. “I trust the state capitals to be the source of innovation and reform in this country,” Bush said referencing his belief that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed.

Here are my predictions regarding the top 5 contenders in the New Hampshire primary: Trump will likely keep the lead in the polls after the debate. The question: Will Cruz, who has been running neck and neck with Rubio in the polls, rise from third place based on his debate performance? Some argue that New Hampshire residents tend to be more libertarian than Cruz. That may prevent Cruz from moving up in the polls, despite an excellent debate performance. Kasich, who has been running fourth in many New Hampshire polls is unlikely to move the needle. Bush, who has been running slightly behind Kasich, is unlikely to rise in polls based on his debate performance.

The New Hampshire primary takes place Tuesday, February 9th.


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