Who Won The First Republican Debate?

| by Ethan Brown

The first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle did not showcase one winner, but some candidates did stand out from the rest of the crowded field of 17.

With two debates occurring on Aug. 6, there was plenty of opportunity for candidates to gain much-needed traction for their campaigns or fall into obscurity. During the earlier debate at 5 p.m. featuring the seven candidates with the lowest poll numbers, it is clear the winner was businesswoman and 2010 California U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina, the lone woman on the Republican side, dominated the conversation following the debate. In a poll taken shortly after the first debate by Fox News, Fiorina led the seven-way race with 83 percent of the vote. Her increased support likely has to do with her stellar performance at the debate, where she seemed to answer each question with specifics and intelligence.

The winner of the primetime debate at 9 p.m., featuring the 10 higher-polling candidates, was not as clear. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are being seen as the leaders of the pack in post-debate analysis from many political strategists and media outlets.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and businessman Donald Trump are receiving mediocre responses, while some are praising New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for their performances.

While body language, showmanship and a strong message are key factors in winning a debate, nothing is more telling of a victor than the headlines the day following the debate. For example, Christie’s confrontation with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky over Paul’s attacks on National Security Agency (NSA) data collection methods is one of the debate's most talked-about moments, with many saying that Paul came up short in the battle.

“When you’re sitting in the subcommittee just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that,” Christie said directly to Paul.

“I know you gave President [Barack] Obama a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go ahead,” Paul shot back.

Trump’s comments towards moderators Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly also have some criticizing the Fox News broadcasters for their “gotcha” questioning on Trump’s past comments towards women, his failed business ventures, and his past positions supporting universal health care and donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Others, however, have praised the moderators for their no-nonsense line of questioning. 

The next Republican debate will be broadcasted by CNN on Sept. 16 and may feature new candidates into the first “tier.” Many analysts expect Fiorina to move up significantly in the polls, while those who did not perform as well or did not receive much attention in the first debate may lose ground.

Sources: CNN, Fox News

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons