Compared to last month's CNBC debate, Tuesday night's GOP debate in Milwaukee was long on policy and short on "gotcha" questions and clashes between candidates and moderators, though analysts say the scorecard isn't that different from last time around, with front-runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson both failing to shine. A look around at the chatter:
- Winners. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were widely seen as the night's standouts, with Politico describing them as "the two strongest candidates" after "showcasing their mastery of the facts and ease under the bright lights." Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post deems Cruz, after his attacks on DC's "crony culture, to now be the "outsider" candidate most likely to succeed.
- Honorable mentions. Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul both had praiseworthy moments, with Fiorina once again demonstrating a strong command of the issues and impressive debating skills. Paul managed to get his message on fiscal policy across, and, "at this stage of his candidacy, that amounts to a win," per the Post. Carson's performance was seen as middling, with policy answers lacking in substance, though he did ably deflect a question about the recent controversies over his life story.
- Jeb Bush. He needed a good night after a dismal performance last month, and opinions are split on whether he delivered. It "was Bush's best performance in any of the debates so far," according to the Hill—but "unfortunately for him, that's a rather low bar." He was more assertive than in previous debates, though it's "uncertain" whether that will be enough to give his campaign much of a boost, notes a New York Times assessment. Still, it adds that "he no longer seemed as desperate to be somewhere else," while a Politico analysis has a "Bush stops the bleeding" headline and theme.
- Losers. John Kasich was more of a presence in this debate, but it was not a presence many people liked, with the National Review calling him "angry, condescending, and unprincipled" and likening him to "the drunk, obnoxious uncle everyone wishes hadn't accepted the invitation to Thanksgiving dinner." Trump's performance was seen as his weakest yet, and Politico says he "committed perhaps the biggest gaffe of the night" by suggesting wages in America are too high.
- Fox Business Network. Unlike CNBC's widely criticized debate, Fox's debate was seen as "fair and balanced," with candidates receiving a roughly equal amount of speaking time, ranging from 13 minutes 35 seconds for Cruz to 9 minutes 22 seconds for Carson, according to Politico. "And that is how you run a debate," tweeted RNC chairman Reince Priebus.
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