Facial expressions were telling.
A punch here.
A jab there.
It was a family brawl.
At times one wondered when the police would show up to quell the domestic dispute.
It was a full on Family Feud as Republican presidential candidates went at it on a real discussion on differences on policy Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
Whether the topic was immigration, foreign policy, minimum wage, taxation, the wannabes showed they truly do not all think alike nor are on the same sheet of music, resulting in a dischord.
Some of the participants were more incensed than others.
One seemed to be like the spouse who did not want to get involved while the other spouse and the children argued, garnering the least amount of speaking time with only nine minutes in the two-hour debate.
That contender, who is running either first or second in national polls, was Dr. Ben Carson. As the night wore on, Carson faded away like the wallflower at a school dance. Yet for supporters, that won’t matter.
For Rand Paul, who has been unable to build on his father’s (Dr. Ron Paul, 2012 presidential candidate) foundation of the Liberty Movement, had nothing to lose and everything to gain as he challenged the others on the stage time and time again.
Even when Marco Rubio threw down the gauntlet with the worst name he could call him – an “isolationist” – Paul took the blow and kept jabbing away. Paul challenged the conservative credentials of the junior Senator from Florida, who is third in the polls, as being “liberal on defense spending”.
Rubio landed blow after blow on the others on every subject presented. His youthfulness and nervousness showed time and again as well. I am sure at times, Rubio was wanting to reach for a bottle of water.
One telling scene, not played in live time, of the nature of the family feud was during a break when Rubio, like a sheepish son confronting his father, walked over to Jeb Bush to talk. Bush simply shook his head “no”. Rubio turned, walked away to talk with Donal Trump instead.
Trump for all his bluster about his success as a business man, showed he was not as adept on the nuances of foreign policy. When given the chance to come out with a strong economic blueprint or tax overhaul, did not take advantage of his full 90 seconds.
Other candidates piled on from John Kasich to Bush to Rubio and a Thor’s hammer slug from Carly Fiorina when Trump said he was happy to let Russian President Vladimir Putin do the heavy lifting in Syria.
Kasich, continuing to whine about his time to speak, when he did speak was indepth and in contrast with where most of the base of the GOP is at on issues such as immigration. Kasich chimed in with Bush to blast Trump for thinking he could simply deport 11 to 12 million illegal aliens. Both noted it was not feasible or realistic.
Kasich did present a succinct history of foreign relations, however, showing his prowess on the subject.
Trump brought up to the chagrin of many Americans, “Operation Wetback”, when President Dwight Eisenhower removed 1.5 million illegal aliens in the 1950s. While many in the base were cheering, those Republicans knowing the Latino vote is a make or break for the party in 2016 were losing their supper.
Ted Cruz showed why he was so successful so often when he representative the State of Texas before the Supreme Court. His delivery and arguments were forceful and pointed. He showed a command of the subject matter, whatever the question posed.
For Fiorina, her best moments came when she interjected herself into the conversation – whether her turn or not. She may have been the only woman on the stage, but she was the one with the biggest cojones in confronting Trump and Paul on America’s military might and use in places like Syria and the Mideast.
But what did we learn that we did not already know about the wannabes positions?
Really not much that we did not have at our finger tips.
We did see one size does not fit all when trying to lump all eight of those on stage together. There are similarities and there are real, not just minor, but major differences in positions.
On minimum wage, none are for raising it – at least not to the $15 hour demanded by Democratic candidates and fast food workers.
On immigration, all want to secure the border. Some want to find a way to provide legal status to those who are otherwise law-abiding in the country already. Some want to pack all 11 million and ship them too far away to come back.
On taxation, all the candidates want reform the tax code. Doing it, is another matter.
On foreign policy, there is a swing from no involvement unless attacked directly to being the leader in the hot spots.
So who won?
For me, both Rubio and Cruz were the clear winners of the night. It is a bit of a toss-up with the two.
Bush will live to see another day.
Carson made no gains, but will get no losses.
Trump is like a rolling stone.
Fiorina may only get her dream debate in her dreams at night. She still will be around come caucus day in Iowa.
Kasich is too “adult” and too “moderate” for the base, no matter his general election electability. Oh, and John, stop whining about not being able to speak when you get to speak – use it to say something that means something.
Rand Paul, though passionate, is not his father. He will not be going anywhere, but he is looking more like Don Quixote with every outing.
From the Cornfield, rest up. There is five weeks until the next time these wannabes are on one stage – at least those still around. That debate will be December 15, hosted once more by CNN.