On debate winners… and who exceeded expectations.
For those of you couldn’t attend the debate in person, here are my own observations. (Note: I’m not trying to favor anyone; I went to hear each candidate speak unfiltered by the media, and I’m giving you the lowdown.)
Who were the winners? Trump, Milwaukee and Wisconsin. Trump because he had a reported 80 million viewers for his Tucker Carlson interview at the same time as the debate while the debate had only 15 million viewers. That’s what we call a blow out. Milwaukee and Wisconsin were also winners because the debate was at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee; the same building as the convention next year. The debate showcased Milwaukee and the state to the nation, although I think Fox News didn’t do as good of a job on that as they could have.
Who were the losers? I would honestly say there were no losers in this debate. I’ve watched debates going back to 1980, and I have to say that everybody in this debate spoke well, was articulate, and, at one point or another, the audience applauded every candidate.
Who performed below expectations? There’s no question that Tim Scott came in below expectations, which was unfortunate, because people had higher expectations for him. He didn’t get as much airtime and tended to preach. A number of people watching thought that he wasn’t used to the debate format, because he’s been a preacher in which no one argues with him. He really wasn’t very aggressive trying to get a word in, so he stood there politely silent most of the night.
Who performed at expectation level? I would say Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie.
People didn’t have high expectations for them, but they met those expectations, although on a few occasions Christie was actually booed – once to just shut him up. In fact, he was the most booed candidate of anyone on stage. It’s clear that he’s just in it for himself and his own aggrandizement rather than for the country’s betterment.
Who outperformed expectations? No question that Burgum from North Dakota and Nikki Haley came out ahead compared to expectations. Burgum was working off a bum leg, after an injury and still managing to stand for three hours! He really scored some good points. He’s not gonna be the president, but he increased his national exposure and it’s clear he really knows what he’s talking about. He came across as less of a politician than many of the others.
Nikki Haley really did a good job and boosted her ratings. She even scored some funny one-liners. I think she could make an excellent vice president.
Mike Pence also exceeded expectations. People were kind of expecting a person who is noncommittal and somewhat of a wet noodle, but he came out with some really good punches and really good points but he also pissed people off on a few points, thereby ending up in a neutral position – no gain but no loss for the night. I don’t see him getting through primary season because he doesn’t have any core supporter group of a large enough size.
You could really tell sitting in the forum, live, who the audience liked or disliked. Vivek Ramaswamy came across as a big winner. The audience loved him. My wife says that ain’t so, but then she was watching on TV. He was aggressive, funny, able to hold his own against experienced and professional, political career activists. And he’s got the most likelihood to capture the support of the younger generations, which are massive in size. He was also the only one who showed up at the after debate reception, scoring more points there.
He did have one deficiency in terms of the war in Ukraine, saying we can’t or shouldn’t be funding more military aid to Ukraine, which I disagree with. It’s naive to think that if we don’t fight the Russians in Ukraine, then we’ll end up fighting the Russians and China, both in Europe and in the South Pacific. China is watching the war on Ukraine very closely to determine when it will attack Taiwan.
So it’s interesting to see that there may be a different perception of the TV audience versus the live audience. There was a difference in what we witnessed live vs. what TV viewers saw.
The event even started 15 minutes before television programming started, with a walking out of the flag, Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem, and a prayer, along with instructions from Brett Baier to the audience to not engage in applause or heckling, which went unheeded. It’s like the UW chancellor telling the students to avoid the “F you, eat S” chant at the football games; that’s like an invitation to do it even more, thank you very much!
And then there was DeSantis, who slightly exceeded expectations. Even though he’s the front runner after Trump, people had lower expectations for him. He doesn’t seem to be as good at campaigning, even though he is an excellent governor. He did manage to come through the debate with some really good points and he came across as tough and willing to fight for us, plus willing to take on the establishment. DeSantis did what he needed to do – not screw this up.
I did like the format, which was a little bit more of a free-for-all, but also that by not having Trump there, it allowed the other candidates to really have to perform rather than just attack Trump.
Seeing the debate live really allowed me to enjoy what I thought was the most entertaining debate that I have seen. It was truly remarkable to see these candidates perform. At times the audience was laughing, booing, clapping, and engaged in other reactions. They didn’t hold back, and they participated actively in the debate. There was even a point where the audience booed Chris Christie deliberately keep him from talking as they were sick and tired of hearing from him and some of his positions.
Interestingly, I think the losers in this debate, not largely, but a little bit, were both Fox News and Republican Party of Wisconsin. First, Fox News because they asked a lot of traditional Republican questions without asking anything about the economy, which is Biden’s weak point, so they really missed an opportunity to allow the candidates to hammer on Biden. I was very disappointed in that.
The other loser was the Wisconsin Republican Party, and Fox News played a role. One, there were three gigantic sections of seating in Fiserv Forum they were completely empty. Apparently, Fox News refused to sell out seating. Fox could’ve brought in thousands more supporters. That was a huge mistake. There are people who wanted to go to the debate, but couldn’t attend because there weren’t enough tickets, yet here were three huge seating sections that sat hundreds or thousands of seats, all empty.
In addition, I think that Chairman Brian Schimming missed a huge opportunity to go on stage himself and pitch the party to the American people on national television and ask for their support of the party and its policies. Brian could’ve laid out basically three or four points on the platform as to why Americans should want to vote Republican next year. Plus he missed an opportunity for fundraising. I was surprised that since Brian loves to talk in front of an audience, that he wasn’t up there. But I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t ask for donations, or direct people to the website because he”s made that mistake quite a few times already in the recent past. We can’t win without money and the chairman isn’t gonna ask for donations, that’s not a good sign. So this is kind of a kick in the ass to Brian step it up; the party needs a plan of action and needs funding, and that means the leader of the party needs to get out there and get these things accomplished. You can’t just talk on the radio or on zoom calls.
We need to show American public why we are more concerned and care about their lives than the Democrats. It’s very clear that the Republican Party of Dane County is making a very specific efforts in this area, and we’ll see how those results turn out next year.
As a member of the audience, I really enjoyed the debate. The applauding in support of candidates, the booing, etc. I would say that everyone there had a great time and a lot of fun. It was fascinating to see how each candidate spoke, and how he or she is able to handle the pressure of a live audience, rather than getting a filtered and edited version of the candidates from TV.
T. Wall holds a degree from the UW in economics and an M.S. in real estate analysis and valuation and is a real estate developer. Disclaimer: The opinions of the writer are not necessarily those of this publication or the left!