A Volatile GOP Debate

 Rubio Under AttackRubio

Well, apparently the media wants everyone to think that Senator Rubio really blew it tonight. Admittedly, Marco had a rough start. Going into the debate, all the pundits predicted that he would have a target on his back, and they were right. He took it like a man though, no whining as we saw from Ted Cruz in the last debate. After his surge coming out of Iowa, Rubio was in the unenviable position to be hit from above and below. With his third place finish in the caucus this past Monday, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump openly questioned Rubio’s rise in popularity both with the media and among voters. They finished first and second respectively, yet he garnered all the attention.

We are really in a three-man race at this point, Trump, Cruz and Rubio, so the others really had nothing to lose tonight. Ben Carson faded into the background, getting little airtime and few questions directed his way. As I have said before, I like Ben Carson, but this is not his race. Trump and Cruz both had mediocre performances, with Trump getting his usual dirty digs in at Bush primarily, and drawing boos from the crowd. The Governors, Kasich, Bush and Christie all did well tonight, but it will not resurrect their campaigns. Bush had a fairly successful attack on Donald Trump over eminent domain, while Christie fixed his sights on Marco Rubio.

As the debate opened, Chris Christie came out swinging by informing Senator Rubio that he did not have the experience to be president. He said rather than answer questions that prove his inexperience, the Senator delivers a “25 second memorized speech”. Rubio was not great on defense. He attempted to come back at Christie with charges against his record as Governor, but then tried to segue into President Obama’s agenda. It did not work well for him. Adding insult to injury, he repeated himself several times, which led to further criticism from Christie, and seemed to validate Christie’s initial accusation.

At this point in the debate, I started feeling queasy. I really wanted Marco to have another strong performance going into next week’s New Hampshire primary. Luckily, he did not disappoint. After a commercial break, the Rubio I so admire was back on his game.

For the rest of the debate, he fielded questions on immigration reform, foreign policy, the economy, abortion and same-sex marriage. He was amazing! His discussion about ISIS and his plan to defeat them, displayed his depth of knowledge on foreign policy. These were not talking points or a “memorized speech”, but an intelligent and insightful analysis of the Sunni-Shia rift, and its effect on the growth of ISIS. In case you missed it, Christie was mute during this foreign policy discussion because HE lacks “experience” in the geopolitical scene.

Asked about the definition of “conservatism”, Rubio listed the three characteristics he believes define the conservative movement: limited government, free enterprise and a strong defense. He then proceeded to expound on each of them in a flawless delivery. He was absolutely presidential.

For me, the most memorable moment was his affirmation of his belief in traditional marriage and the right to life for the unborn. Criticized by other GOP contenders, as he was by Bush this evening, for being too extreme on abortion, Rubio commented, “I would rather lose an election than be wrong on the issue of life”. It was a stellar moment. I define a real leader as someone who is willing to stand up for what he believes is right, no matter the outcome, and that is Marco Rubio.

The post-debate pundits ruled the evening a loss for Rubio. I’m not sure where they were for the bulk of the debate, as Rubio redeemed himself admirably, but they were determined to focus on his initial mishap. In the history of televised debates, from Nixon/Kennedy to the present, every presidential candidate has had a “bad” debate. It happens. It does not necessarily signal the end of their campaign. Reagan had a terrible night against Mondale during the 1984 election, but then came back and won a decisive victory in the following debate.

Rubio slipped up in the opening segment, but he was strong the rest of the evening, and I still think he will do well in New Hampshire. Let’s not forget, Bill Clinton lost in Iowa and New Hampshire, and still defeated George H.W. Bush to win the 1988 election.

The mainstream media does not want Marco Rubio to be the Republican nominee. He is too dangerous. The polls have shown that in a match-up against Hillary Clinton, he is the ONLY candidate that consistently beats her. Their goal is to undermine Marco Rubio and promote Donald Trump because Trump is the candidate who is most likely to lose to Hillary.

We can expect endless replays of the Rubio/Christie altercation over the next couple of days. The media will try very hard to convince voters that Senator Rubio is out, but don’t believe them. This race is just getting started, and Marco Rubio is worth watching.

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