By: Thomas Lodico
The first Republican debate happened last night in Ohio as the top ten candidates met to discuss the issues facing America, with the majority of viewers who tuned in wanting to know how Donald J. Trump would fare in the crowded Republican field.
Donald Trump started the night by raising his hand when asked if there was any chance of him running as a third party candidate, Ben Carson made news with his answer when asked if he had the knowledge to run as the Republican nominee for president, and establishment favorite Jeb Bush admitted that he was “going to have to earn” the nomination, pointing to his record of cutting taxes and balancing the budget in Florida.
Chris Christie, who has struggled to gain traction thus far, talked about his tax reform plan and how he turned the finances New Jersey around in an attempt to stress his ability to cross party lines and help New Jersey businesses. In response to a question about the recent Planned Parenthood controversies, Scott Walker stated that he had “defunded Planned Parenthood four years ago”. Mike Huckabee continued that socially conservative trend by discussing the “personhood” of the unborn child when discussing abortion.
John Kasich, who had experienced some momentum heading into the debate, discussed how his belief is that treatment rather than punishment is the best option in handling nonviolent drug offenders and that he would be committed to helping the working poor “get back on their feet”. When asked about his controversial decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio as part of the Affordable Care Act, Kasich responded to criticism by stating that “Medicaid is growing at its lowest rate”.
On the topic of illegal immigration, Jeb Bush stressed the need for more border security, the need to eliminate sanctuary cities, and the need for a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. Donald Trump, on the other hand, stated that “Money going out and drugs are coming in” on the Mexican border and that the answer is “to build a wall and keep illegals out”. Donald Trump followed-up on his policy prescriptions by stating that the current national leadership is “stupid”.
Where NSA surveillance was concerned, Rand Paul stated that he does not want the NSA to collect data on citizens, in response to which Chris Christie questioned how the government can tell the difference between terrorists and innocent citizens, leading Paul to talk dismissively about the infamous hug between Christe and President Obama.
On ISIS, Ted Cruz stated that the U.S. needs a commander in chief who says that “if you join ISIS you are signing your death warrant”, in response to which Jeb Bush responded by stating that the Iraq War was a mistake and that ISIS was created by a void that the United States left, while Scott Walker criticized President Obama for “leading from behind”.
On the controversial issue of entitlement reform, Chris Christie stated that his solution would be to raise the retirement age and phase out those who do not “need” Social Security. Mike Huckabee then stated his belief that “people need to get a wage to pay into social security”.
On the seemingly all-important issue of the economy, Donald Trump stated that he used the laws of the country in response to a question about his bankruptcy proceedings, after which he pivoted to state that the nation needed someone like him to “straighten out the economic mess”. Marco Rubio’s answer on the economy would be to gear it to place it in global competition using a combination of tax reform, small government, and improved higher education.
On foreign policy, Rand Paul stated that the United States must “negotiate from a position of strength” with Iran and that the current deal did not fit that criteria, while Ted Cruz hammered the “Obama-Clinton foreign policy of leading from behind”, and Scott Walker attempted to show his foreign policy bona fides by advocating the provision of U.S. arms to the Baltic states to combat perceived Russian encroachment in these countries. Chris Christie’s solution to America’s foreign policy issues appeared to be an increase in military forces which would send a clear message to the country’s enemies.
The debate ended with closing statements by each candidate, and within a few hours of the debate’s end, a number of online polls had declared various winners and losers of the debate.