I like John Kasich. I think he is among the Republican candidates that the Democrats fear the most. He is a good general election candidate. But what was he thinking last night? I don’t so much have a problem on substance – on substance he was generally very good, although the response on the bank depositors started out as a good point that became a disaster – but on the constant interruptions. It didn’t look energetic or passionate; it looked desperate. On a night when he had enough time per question to look like the informed, smart, and sensible candidate he is, his petulance was a distraction from his virtues.
In a format like this, one should only persist in seeking unreserved time when there is an important argument to be made and where one is absolutely confident that the argument will score points. But interjecting for the sake of getting airtime is a strategy that can go terribly wrong. I think it did last night for Governor Kasich, and that is unfortunate. That is especially true when confronting Ted Cruz. I’m no fan of Senator Cruz, but in a debate, he is not someone to be trifled with. The important point to be made was that a president, like a governor, must use judgment, not merely abstract principles. Kasich attempted to make that point, but he fumbled it when he dug himself in too deep. There is a life lesson here: just because you have something to say, that does not mean you absolutely must say it. Particularly in a debate format like this, choose your moment wisely, and then nail it.
Marco Rubio is quickly emerging as the chief rival to Trump. Dr. Carson, I think, will fade. And Senator Cruz simply does not have enough appeal across party and ideological lines to win a general election. That you light up the lives of evangelical Christians is great for the Iowa caucuses, but you’ll need a much bigger coalition than that in November of 2016. If Senator Cruz is the nominee, there is a good chance that he will not only lose but lose quite badly. Senator Rubio keeps Republicans competitive and he is almost an ideal generational contrast with Hillary Clinton. Beyond Rubio, Governors Kasich and Christie remain a good bet in the general, though their path to the nomination is questionable at this point. Christie, by the way, was excellent in the early debate, and looked far more presidential than his chief antagonist Bobby Jindal, who cannot seem to grasp the reality that governing in New Jersey is a far different enterprise for a Republican than governing in Louisiana.
Carly Fiorina continues to show excellent skills. But she is not getting traction. That, too, is unfortunate. And it is simply laughable that Rand Paul, the Libertarian candidate, would attempt to lecture anyone on not being conservative enough. But no one is listening to him, so it likely does not matter much.