FOX News hosted an early debate for seven candidates whose polling numbers weren’t high enough to get on the main stage. Former New York Governor George Pataki, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC, Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-PA, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and businesswoman Carly Fiorina answered questions from FOX News’ Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer.
Graham focused his answers on ISIL, discussion of which seems to be the main motivating factor in his run for presidency. Perry focused on his experience. Jindal emphasized the importance of conservative governance. Pataki and Gilmore emphasized records from their time as governors less recent than Perry’s. And Santorum revisited themes, such as helping out blue collar workers, he emphasized during his earlier run for presidency.
But it was Carly who stood out. Fiorina towered over her opponents, even though many of them handled themselves well. When asked about Donald Trump’s popularity, Fiorina pointed out progressive positions he held while also acknowledging that his popularity is a result of the GOP political class failing to serve its constituents. Still, she asked, “What are the principles by which he’ll govern?
“There’s a sharpness and intelligence about her. A precision of her message that really cuts through,” FOX News’ Chris Wallace said immediately after the debate.
That was seen in one answer when she went out of her way to draw distinctions between conservatism and progressivism, about how they differ at their core in their views of the individual, equality, and the role of the government. Though she officially ran out of time in this answer, she kept going until she made her point and a moderator would have been crazy to stop her, on account of how compelling the moment was. Her control of the stage at that moment had something of Reagan’s “I am paying for this microphone” to it, a defiance based in commitment to a cause.
Simply articulating conservatism, much less doing it with precision and eloquence, reminds viewers how rarely such defenses of conservatism are heard from current Republican leadership. It also reminds them how ineffective and inarticulate such defenses of conservatism usually are.
Political consultant Jordan Gehrke proposed an idea:
Instead of 10 candidates in big debate, shoulda had 9, kept 10th spot available then promoted the winner of the undercard. Like Brit soccer.
Jordan Gehrke (@jmgehrke) August 6, 2015
Perhaps the rest of the candidates on the main stage should thank their lucky stars that the GOP didn’t take this approach. She might have cleaned their clocks, too.