Second GOP Presidential Debate Was Sloppy, At Times Chaotic, Ultimately Forgettable, Critics Say

Wednesday evening’s chaotic GOP presidential primary debate at times felt more like an episode of “Jersey Shore” than a showcase of the best and brightest minds in conservative politics.

So it was perhaps fitting that debate moderator Dana Perino of Fox News brought the noisy show to its natural reality TV conclusion when she asked in “Survivor” style, “Which one of you, on stage tonight, should be voted off the island?”

The candidates were handed whiteboards on which to write down their answers.

The stunt was beneath most of them, and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley made her irritation clear.

“Are you serious?” Haley said.

“I’ll decline to do that,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis added. “With all due respect, we’re here, we’re happy to debate [but] I think that that’s disrespectful to my fellow competitors.” The line may have earned the most enthusiastic applause of the long night.

The audience assembled at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California, appeared to have had enough.

Ratings were expected to underscore the sentiment, with fewer viewers tuning in for another debate sans former President Donald Trump, the dominant front-runner in the GOP presidential nomination sweepstakes. Trump instead opted to hold a rally in suburban Detroit, where thousands of United Auto Workers have gone on strike.

Last month’s first debate had its share of disorder to be sure, but the second edition hosted by Fox Business Network and Univision was a raucous affair.

Debate moderators — Stuart Varney of Fox Business, Perino, and Univision anchor Ilia Calderón — lost control almost from the get-go, ineffectually scolding candidates for constantly interrupting, piling on, and altogether abusing the 1-minute answer clock and the patience of the audience.

There was plenty of blame to go around.

“Nothing anyone said was particularly memorable, and neither was the debate. And that was the story of this debate. It just happened. It was nothing special. There were no memorable moments, everyone was fine…and that’s it.” conservative commentator Derek Hunter wrote in a column for The Hill dourly headlined “Everyone Lost the Second Debate — Especially the Audience.”

The audience definitely voiced its complaints.

After U.S. Senator Tim Scott scuffled with fellow South Carolinian Haley about false accusations of costly curtains, one particularly irritated participant featured on PJ Media’s Drunkblogging with Vodka Pundit quipped, “Speaking of curtains. Someone should lower one down in this clownshow.”

The Vodka Pundit himself, Stephen Green, who also co-hosts “Right Angle,” described Scott and Haley as a “couple in divorce court, arguing about the curtains while the judge wishes he’d slipped a bigger flask under his robe.”

Plenty of debate watchers complained about the moderators, asserting they would have been more at home on MSNBC than a Fox News product.

Varney asked a class war question on “Big Three” CEO salaries versus UAW blue-collar wages.

“Then there was a question about the federal government and child care — not food or gas prices, but child care. Here’s a hint: People who want the government to pay for the care of their kids are not likely to be voting in a Republican primary,” Hunter wrote in his column.

“Then came the ‘gun violence’ question and the utterly bogus slavery question about Florida education from the Univision anchor. That one might as well have been planted by the Democratic National Committee,” he added.

Still, as in all debates, judgments on “winners and losers” must be rendered.

Conservative radio talk show host Clay Travis offered his power rankings, awarding DeSantis the top spot, surprisingly followed by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. Despite being ignored much of the night, the Republican dark horse broke out of his talking point notes and delivered some interesting takes, particularly on President Joe Biden’s disastrous energy and climate change policies.

Travis ranked Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy third. The 38-year-old political outsider again dropped some memorable lines but was mostly on the defense, fending off an onslaught of attacks from the same people he attacked as “bought and paid for” in the first debate.

But with so much shouting and a shortage of substance, it’s difficult to pick a winner in a crowded field dominated by a candidate who wants nothing to do with GOP presidential debates.

By 10:07 p.m. on Wednesday, the Vodka Pundit had had enough.

“With that, I’m off to bed with a totally off-topic sci-fi novel and a brandy in a snifter the size of a Yugo, but far more reliable,” Green wrote. But the political junkie will be back.

“Thanks for coming, and I’ll see you in November for the next one,” he signed off.

– – –

M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Vivek Ramaswamy” by Vivek Ramaswamy. Photo “Nikki Haley” by Nikki Haley. Photo “Tim Scott” by Tim Scott. Background Photo “Republican Debate Stage” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.



Related posts