A Look at the Republican Primary Debates

Was there a clear winner? Did anyone out-trump Trump?

WDET’s Travis Wright and Laura Weber-Davis talk to Tim Alberta, senior political correspondent at the National Journal, about Thursday’s Republican presidential primary debates.

  • Happy Hour Debate: Alberta says that calling the happy hour debate “subdued” is generous, and calling it a debate is a stretch. He says the candidates hardly interacted and did not have an incentive to critique each other. 
  • Winners and losers?: Alberta calls Carly Fiorina a sharp performer but doesn’t know if she would have stood out the same way in the main debate. He says it is hard to pick just one loser from the happy hour debate, and that Lindsay Graham and Rick Santorum were forgettable.  
  • Donald Trump: Laura and Travis ask Alberta if Donald Trump embarrassed himself in the debate. Alberta says that anyone who has been paying attention to Trump is not surprised and that his supporters like him because they find his off the cuff style real and refreshing. He says there is a “hard ceiling” on Trump’s popularity, and he will not become the nominee. 
  • Turning point: Alberta says there was a turning point in the debate when John Kasich did not take the opportunity to attack Donald Trump’s immigration position, and instead acknowledged that Trump reflects widespread frustration with American politics.  
  • Fox moderation: Alberta explains that the GOP had Fox News moderate the first debates because they thought a friendly organization would pit candidates against each other less, because of how the 2012 primary debates hurt Mitt Romney. He says Megyn Kelly was a strong moderator and implies that Fox News still provoked conflict between the candidates.

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.