Republican candidates gathered together Thursday night for a highly anticipated first debate of the primary season in Cleveland, Ohio. Fox News anchors hurled tough and ambitious questions to candidates with Donald Trump starting things off by refusing to commit to not launching a third party bid, possibly undermining the future Republican nominee.
Moderator Megyn Kelly set the evening’s tone by confronting Trump about his past misogynistic comments on women, to which he responded he didn’t “have time for total political correctness.” Kelly asked Governor Scott Walker whether he could win a general election while possessing viewpoints out of the mainstream on abortion. Moderator Bret Baier confronted Senator Rand Paul on why he is “so quick to blame” his own party on foreign policy, which later incited a heated exchange between him and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on phone data collection and national security.
“When you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that,” Governor Christie fired at Senator Paul, who seconds later accused the governor for fundamentally misunderstanding the Bill of Rights and hugging President Obama. Christie looked presidential in his response that the hugs he remembered are with families who have lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks.
With such a crowded stage, fighting for time to speak was an inevitable factor. According to the Washington Post, the order of minutes spoken from most to least begins with Donald Trump at 10.31 minutes spoken, former Governor Jeb Bush with 8.47, Governor John Kasich with 6.56 minutes, former Governor Mike Huckabee with 6.50 minutes, and followed by Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Governor Chris Christie, Governor Scott Walker, and Senator Rand Paul.
When addressed for the second time, Ben Carson stated, “Well, thank you, Megyn, I wasn’t sure I was going to get to talk again.”
Ohio Governor John Kasich, who barely squeaked into the debate reserved for the top 10 polled Republican candidates, refused to be buried and presented himself as a formidable challenger. Placed on the far right side of the stage, due to his last place polling, Governor Kasich spoke to a more moderate leaning compassionate conservative. He said he would love his daughters unconditionally, even if they were gay, and defended his decision to expand Medicare in his home state. “Everybody has a right to their God-given purpose.”
The debate wrapped up around 11 pm, after a series of concise and rehearsed closing statements from the candidates.
The “Happy Hour” debate, which consisted of the seven Republican candidates who did not make the top 10 cut, took place earlier at 5 pm. Carly Fiorina received praise for her performance from multiple experts in Politico Magazine.
The next Republican debate will be hosted by CNN and Salem Radio at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California on Wednesday, September 16. The first Democratic debate will be held on October 13 in Nevada, hosted by CNN.