When you are sharing the stage with 10 other candidates, it's hard to outshine the other candidates. I wrote the following notes regarding each candidate:
- Donald Trump: he speaks his mind, and he also is more than willing to show how he's evolved on each issue when asked. He's very outspoken, showing both the ability to work with others and to scorch the earth, sometimes simultaneously. I question whether he could get Congress to accept his nominations for his Cabinet, which isn't necessarily a good or bad thing. He does remind me of President Tyler, which isn't a good thing. He also showed an ability to dodge a question when needed.
- Scott Walker: there's no doubt that he's a conservative, willing to go after public unions. I thought he was very articulate and has shown the ability to govern. He's got a bit of Jimmy Carter blandness to him, but that can be changed over time.
- Jeb Bush: I thought he showed his Southern charm very well, almost to a point of timidness at times. He did a fine job of articulating his positions, but he appeared somewhat vulnerable on stage with others. He didn't look comfortable with the format, and he looked somewhat "old" on stage.
- Ben Carson: there's no doubt that he's intelligent, but I thought he was the least polished of all that was on stage. At the debate I didn't think he explained his positions all that well. I questioned his ability to communicate to the larger audience.
- Marco Rubio: I'll have to admit that before the debate, I thought that Rubio came off too eager for my liking, something like Al Gore from 2000. However, I thought he did a great job communicating his stance on issues along with showing considerable confidence without looking cocky. I do question whether the Republican primary voters will look at him as the 2nd or 3rd choice, but maybe not their first choice. He's very respectful towards Bush, even when the opportunity came to slam him. Very commendable.
- Rand Paul: Rand is somewhat of an enigma to me for the fact that he's definitely carved his own unique position via his libertarian streak. He also showed considerable guts on stage, taking on Christie and Trump. I don't think he won either argument, but he definitely showed passion for his thoughts. I do, however, question whether he's willing to govern.
- John Kasich: John seemed uncertain at times, and he's not a great debater. He should have won the hometown crowd over, but he didn't. Like Bush, he came off a bit old. His positions tend to be somewhat unique, especially with his expanding Medicaid in Ohio in his capacity of governor.
- Mike Huckabee. Regardless of your political positions, I found Huckabee the most likable of all the candidates on stage. I also believed that he articulated the relationship between faith and politics better than anyone in the past 2 or 3 decades, including George W. Bush. I also think he's more intelligent than most give him credit for. He has shown the ability to govern. He's probably more like George W. Bush than any other candidate: socially conservative but fiscally, much more moderate.
- Chris Christie: Christie has earned the reputation as a bully, but I think that's more of a testament of his environment. In New Jersey, no one will ever accuse him of being a pushover. He's shown the ability to espouse conservative rhetoric while, at the same time, govern more towards the middle, albeit a tad to the right. I thought he did a good job, although Rand Paul showed how easy it is to push his buttons.
- Ted Cruz: I question his desire to govern. He may also be the most hurt by a Trump candidacy. I've followed Cruz for the past two and half years, and I have always concluded that he likes hearing himself talk.
- Carly Fiorina: She did a great job espousing her positions on stage. She's also done a fine job of not backing down to Trump or Hillary Clinton. I don't believe she will win the nomination, but I also believe she should be in the top half-dozen of candidates within the GOP Primary.
- Rick Perry: Some have laughed about him wearing glasses, but I do believe that the glasses have given him more confidence. That statement is laughable, but I'll stand by it because he seemed much more relaxed than in the past. I think he's a fringe candidate that will have trouble on several fronts with his candidacy.
- Lindsay Graham: Lindsay looked unpolished and slightly unglued at times. I can't take him seriously as a candidate.
- George Pataki: As Governor, he was somewhat of a pushover, and as a Presidential candidate, he looks very vulnerable. Not a bad guy whatsoever, and he's got some credentials as a conciliator, but I think the Presidential ship sailed past him over a decade ago.
- Rick Santorum. Many forget that he basically came in 2nd to Romney in 2012 for the GOP nomination. He has shown an ability to hit a cord with the blue collar, white working class. His social conservatism cannot be questioned, but in regards to fiscal policy, he's a 100% neoconservative.
- Bobby Jindal: I thought Jindal did a fine job in the "J.V" debate. He's likable, very energetic, and upbeat. He might be a candidate that will actually gain traction in the grassroots arena this year. I wrote him off before the debate...and I was wrong. He probably deserves a seat with the big boys come the next debate.
- Jim Gilmore: Gilmore was the last entrant to the Presidential race, and I have no idea why he's running. He wasn't an effective VA governor, he flamed out early in the 2008 Presidential cycle, ran for VA senator in 2008 only to get trounced by Mark Warner, and he's old. He's not likable.
At this point, I'll place each candidate in a Tier, with 1st tier being the most likely to win the nomination:
First tier: Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio.
Second tier: Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Rand Paul.
Third tier: Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina.
Fourth tier: Rick Perry, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson.
Fifth tier: Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore, Lindsay Graham, George Pataki.