Real Debate Happens When Trump Goes Silent

With 11 candidates on stage at the Republican presidential debate it was going to be hard for anyone to get a word in edgewise with the outspoken Donald Trump taking the center. And early on, it seemed the only way the debate could happen is if it was between newcomer Carly Fiorina and the frontrunner Trump. But, as the debate ran on a strange thing happened: Trump stopped talking about a debate came about.

Early on, Fiorina, the former CEO and only female GOP candidate, took Trump to task with his comments about her in Rolling Stone.

“You know it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said to raucous applause at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Her references to Jeb Bush was in regards to Trump attacking the former-Florida governor for his misstatement about cutting women’s health funding when he meant cutting funding for Planned Parenthood.

Trump, for his part, tried to soften the blow by saying the businesswoman was a very beautiful woman, adding on to his earlier remarks that he only meant her persona and not her looks.

That was not the only comment from Fiorina during the debate as she earned large applause for her biting remarks against Planned Parenthood, challenging President Barack Obama to watch the videos and not want to end funding to the organization.

“This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us,” she said.

This was an impressive feat for the debate that heavily focused on the GOP frontrunner. After billing Trump as wanting to take a more tempered approach in his campaign, Trump opened the event with an attack on Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, saying he did not deserve to be on stage. He later remarked about Paul’s looks, saying that he has never attacked the junior senator but “believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there.”

Three of the first four questions involved Trump and his previous remarks. With a pause in the questions on Trump lasting only a few minutes, it wasn’t long before Jake Tapper, CNN anchor and moderator of the debate, returned to the billionaire businessman. Lost in the debate because of the Trump show included Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Paul and other. From time to time, multiple candidates could be heard screaming out Tapper’s name in an effort to get valuable speaking time, though many of them fell to Tapper’s strict moderating style. In the first two segments of the debate, roughly one quarter of the questions have gone to Trump and just under half involved response times from the businessman.

Tapper did focus on other candidates from time to time, bringing up questions about Bush, Walker, Christie, Carson and Fiorina. Christie spent his time trying to direct attention away from the back-and-forth between Fiorina and Trump and focus on Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. He remarked that during the discussion over whether Planned Parenthood’s funding should result in a shutdown everyone on stage agreed the foundation needed to lose it’s federal funding.

“You’re both successful people. Congratulations. You know who’s not successful? The middle class in this country who’s getting plowed over by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Let’s start talking about those issues tonight and stop this childish back-and-forth between the two of you,” Christie said.

And then the debate formed.

After the second commercial debate, a large part of the time focused on issues such as medical marijuana, job creation, healthcare and other red-meat issues for Republicans. Trump, for his part, stayed quiet unless called upon or had an avenue to response to accusations against him. During the latter half of the debate, this did not happen often. Candidates volleyed back and forth, with Paul attacking Bush for smoking pot in high school and Christie attacking Paul for favoring the legalization of marijuana.

Candidates also sparred over global warming and social security, with differences between the more conservative candidates such as Rubio versus the more moderate ones like Kasich. Even John Roberts as Supreme Court Chief Justice became a focal point of differences, with Bush saying Cruz supported George W. Bush’s nomination and now he is decrying the judge and Cruz admitting he was wrong in that support.

In the long run, the debate proved two things: Donald Trump is the media favorite for his outspokenness, proving to bring in good ratings, and having 10 other people on stage makes it hard for everyone to get a word in edgewise unless Trump is silent. Even when Trump was kept out of the discussion it was hard for other candidates to make points, with Kasich, Rubio, Huckabee, Cruz and Paul kept silent for long periods of time.

Now that the debate has finished, the real competition begins. Candidates will retire to the spin room and try to paint themselves as the clear winner in the debate.

About the Author

Justin Shimko
Justin Shimko is an award-winning former reporter for a number of news organizations in his past life. He started working for The Oklahoma Daily and briefly worked for The Daily Oklahoman and the Associated Press before joining Oklahomans for Jobs Now as a communications contributor. After his time in Oklahoma, Justin took his writing skills across the country, working for a variety of organizations before settling in the Chicagoland Area where he is now a consultant for a number of organizations and editor of American Daily News. He is the recipient of a number of SPJ awards for his writing on politics and government while working in Oklahoma, as well as recognition by the Columbia School of Journalism. Justin received his degree from the University of Oklahoma with additional study work completed at Georgetown University.

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