Fox News hosted the first Republican Presidential debate held in Cleveland on Thursday and split it into two, an early debate for low polling candidates and a main debate for the candidates that have the most support in the national polls.
The participation in the primary debate has been restricted by Fox News to only 10 candidates in the prime-time, due to the overcrowded field of 17 Republican hopefuls. The low polling 7 candidates that did not make the cut for the prime-time event participated in a debate held the same day and hosted by Fox News.
According to Reuters, the B-list debate was not strong in energy, except for businesswoman and former Hewlett-Packard Co chief executive Carly Fiorina, who got the most attention and after-commentaries by political analysts. She started with barely registering 1% at the national polls, but after the debate she has surpassed the others mostly because of her digs at Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The rest of the candidates joined her in challenging Trump for his questionable conservativism and his changing positions on healthcare, abortion and being too close with the Clintons.
For Trump, the primary debate signified the opportunity for him to prove that he has a vision and that he does not base his campaign on rhetoric alone. When he announced his Presidential campaign he quickly passed then frontrunner Jeb Bush and gained support of male conservatives and anti-Washington voters.
During the debate Trump came out as the most discussed candidate due to his TV persona and harsh rhetoric he has shown in previous weeks, attacking the Mexican people and calling women “fat pigs”, “disgusting animals”, “dogs”, and “slobs”. According to Reuters moderator Megyn Kelly asked him about his “war on women” to which he replied “What I say is what I say. Honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you have treated me. “This kind of comments may further distance the female voters among the Republicans who find Trump as a potential Republican nominee. He also repeated his stance on immigration, saying the he will build a wall on the Mexican border, but put a “big, beautiful door” for those immigrants that want legal status. He also promised single payer healthcare and a stronger military. The audience met most of his statements with booing and criticized his denial to pledge not to run as independent if he misses the Republican nomination.
Jeb Bush did not make any distinctive comments from those Trump has made regarding women’s rights. According to Reuters Bush stated “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” Also, during the debate he stated he was “completely pro-life”, would not grant amnesty to illegal immigrants and based his appearance on his record as Florida Governor.
The other candidates avoided getting into confrontation with Trump and delivered their agendas like Chris Christie wanting to allow government to collect data and make 500,000 active-duty army soldiers, Ted Cruz proposing prison sentences for illegal immigrants, Mike Huckabee vowing to use Constitutional amendments to ban abortion, Rand Paul opposed the Iran deal and urged to no more foreign aid, Marco Rubio with an anti-abortion stance and call for repeal of Dodd-Frank reforms and Scott Walker wanting to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia.
The primary debate is the break out point where candidates get a momentum for the 2016 Elections and six months before the primary nominating contest in Iowa. The Thursday debate attracted record breaking 24 million viewers and social media has put Donald Trump as the main attraction in the Republican field.