The GOP Candidates Debate … For Real This Time

By Al Perrotta Published on November 11, 2015

In the Fox Business Network/Wall Street Journal debate, the focus was the economy, and for the most part, the night was all business. (Are you paying attention, CNBC?)

That’s not to say there weren’t sparks among the eight leading Republican candidates in their fourth debate, particularly on taxes, military spending and immigration. And the occasional Trump moments we’ve come to expect.

Donald Trump

Front-runner Donald Trump was hammered by Ohio governor John Kasich for his plan to remove illegal immigrants. “For the 11 million people, c’mon folks,” said Kasich, “We all know you can’t pick them up and ship them across the border.” “I built a company worth billions,” Trump retorted. “I don’t need to hear from this man, believe me.”

Trump would later launch a perplexing attack on Carly Fiorina. Fiorina and Rand Paul were having a standard back and forth, when Trump wondered loudly, “Why does she keep interrupting?”  This translated on Twitter as “Women are to be seen, not heard.”

However, Trump’s worst moment came while on a roll condemning the TPP trade agreement. He slammed the deal, and complained that China is always getting the better of us. The audience ate it up.

Then Paul quietly added, “We might want to point out that China is not part of this deal.”

Sen. Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul was far noisier when suggesting Marco Rubio is no conservative. He attacked the Florida senator for proposing to increase spending on family tax credits and defense spending. “Can you be a conservative and be liberal in military spending?” Paul asked. “I know Rand is a committed isolationist,” Rubio shot back. “We can’t even have an economy if we are not safe.”

Paul would also tangle with Carly Fiorina over a proposed no-fly zone in Syria and her statement she would not talk to Russian leader Vladimir Putin because “you don’t negotiate from a position of weakness.” He equated the former with arming al-Qaeda and the later with being impractical.

Carly Fiorina

Former Hewlett-Packer CEO Carly Fiorina gave another strong debate performance. “The secret sauce of America is innovation and entrepreneurism,” she said, and the government is crushing both. “Socialism starts when government creates a problem and then government steps in to solve the problem.”

Several times she called for zero-based budgeting, arguing that we need to track every dollar to know what dollars to cut and what dollars to move. And what became her theme of the night, “We must take our government back!”

Sen. Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz wasn’t talking about cutting dollars. He was talking about cutting out whole agencies. Unfortunately, the Texas senator had what the media is calling a “Rick Perry moment,” when he forgot one of the agencies he is proposing to cut, the Department of Education. He mentioned the Commerce Department twice instead.

The IRS would also be on notice, said Cruz, pointing out that “there are more words in the tax code than in the Bible and not a one of them is good.”

Cruz was on much stronger ground when he spoke of immigration. He remarked that if illegal immigrants were coming over here and dragging down the media’s wages, it’d be called an “economic calamity.” He also blasted the supporters of illegal immigration for saying opponents are anti-immigrant. “It is offensive,” he said.

He would return to the theme in his closing remarks as he told of his father fleeing Cuba and “looking forward to the promise of America. … We are all the children of those who risked all for freedom.”

Gov. John Kasich

Gov. John Kasich doesn’t think much of senators running for chief executive. “Philosophy doesn’t work when you’ve done something,” he said while debating Cruz over whether he’d rescue a bank deemed too big to fail. “On-the-job training for president of the United States doesn’t work,” said Kasich. “We need an executive who has been tried and tested.”

He argued with Cruz that when faced with a disaster that could affect citizens, such as the failure of Bank of America, you “can’t turn a blind eye.”

Repeatedly and aggressively, Kasich detailed his success both in helping balance the budget during the ’90s and in helping turn Ohio around as governor. Trump, for one, was not impressed. “You’re lucky in Ohio you struck oil.”

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush did not have a bad night. But did he have the kind of night he needed to kickstart his campaign?

Jeb stated his positions well and avoided attacking anyone not named Hillary Clinton. In fact, talking about the Democratic front-runner gave Bush his strongest moment:

Hillary Clinton has said that Barack Obama’s policies get an “A.” Really? One in 10 people aren’t working or have given up looking for work, one in seven people live in poverty, and one in five are on food stamps. That is not an “A.” It may be the best that Hillary Clinton can do, but it’s not the best America can do.

Marco Rubio

Senator Marco Rubio also contrasted himself with Hillary Clinton, arguing that 2016 is “actually a generational choice. A choice about what kind of nation we will be in the 21st century.”

Throughout the night, Rubio showed off his mastery of detail and debate, both in his analysis of Vladimir Putin as a “gangster” and in his discussion of the minimum wage. ” If you raise the minimum wage,” he said, “you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine. And that means all this automation that’s replacing jobs and people right now is only going to be accelerated.” He listed his steps for increasing wages, including faster and easier education.

For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.

It was the night’s second shout out to welders. Senator Rick Santorum had mentioned our nation’s need for them in the undercard debate.

Rubio also underscored the dangers of ISIS and why we have a vested interest in what’s happening in the Middle East.

Because all those radical terrorist groups that, by the way, are not just in Syria and in Iraq, ISIS is now in Libya. They are a significant presence in Libya, and in Afghanistan, and a growing presence in Pakistan.

Soon they will be in Turkey. They will try Jordan. They will try Saudi Arabia. They are coming to us. They recruit Americans using social media. And they don’t hate us simply because we support Israel. They hate us because of our values. They hate us because our girls go to school. They hate us because women drive in the United States.

Either they win or we win, and we had better take this risk seriously.

Dr. Ben Carson

Although Dr. Ben Carson is running near the top of the polls, he avoided any conflicts with the other candidates. And it wasn’t because they were worried he’d come at them with a knife or hammer.

Carson’s hassles last week with the media were brought up by moderator Neil Cavuto. “Thank you for not asking me what I said in the 10th grade, I appreciate that,” Carson joked, before turning serious. “I don’t have a problem with being vetted; what I do have a problem with is being lied about and then putting it out there as truth.”

His life story did come into play during a question on raising the minimum wage. He said raising the minimum wage is particularly a problem in the inner city because it denies experience to those just starting out. The real question, he said, is “how do we allow people to ascend the ladder of opportunity?”

Later, he’d speak of the impact of regulation. “Even for the average person, every single regulation costs money,” he said, “It hurts the poor and middle class.”

And then he closed the night with this:

In the two hours of this — of this debate, five people have died from drug-related deaths, $100 million has been added to our national debt, 200 babies have been killed by abortionists, and two veterans have taken their lives out of despair. This is a narrative that we can change, not we the Democrats, not we the Republicans, but we the people of America, because there is something special about this nation, and we must embrace it and be proud of it and never give it away for the sake of political correctness.

Moderators Neil Cavuto, Maria Bartiromo and Gerard Baker

A little bell would chime when time was up for a candidate. Moderator Neil Cavuto joked that “it sounds like a game show, but it’s not.” The Fox Business Network did not treat the debate like a game. (Or worse, as CNBC did, like a reality show from hell.) Cavuto, Bartiromo and Baker asked their questions and got out of the way, letting those vying for the most powerful position in the land carry the discussion.

And for that, the American people were the night’s biggest winners.

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