GOP 1st Debate the Top Ten

Didn't get to see the first debate with the other seven.

Did see the prime-time debate with the top 10 candidates.

Pop quiz: can you name the top 10 candidates?

I'll mention all 10 at some point in the observations below and mark their first appearance in bold.

On policy, with the GOP, you are going to get strong defense no matter what. It is just a question of degree and confidence speaking about it with some specificity.

On the specificity front, Gov. Christie wins that by talking about the Ohio Class Submarine, something Hugh Hewitt has used almost as a "litmus" test for seriousness about national defense. Because of the large number of candidates, I'm not certain each candidate got some form of national security question.

On the economy, with the GOP you are going to get (1) reform regulations and (2) reform the tax code. Again, it is just a question of degree and confidence speaking about it with some specificity. And here is where the governors do have an advantage as they could also say, I've done it in my state. Gov. Bush, Gov. Walker, Gov. Christie and Gov. Kasich had that opportunity.

The other thing you can see in the debate is personality.

For instance, combative is a double edged sword. Overdo it and people think you are mean. Do it just right, you come across as someone with conviction.

Mr. Trump came across as over-the-top in my opinion. However, as Gov. Kasich pointed out he is tapping into something that some people feel and can't be ignored. Sen. Paul and Gov. Christie skated right on the boarder-line during that dust up over the NSA data collection.

Staying calm is a good quality in a leader. However, in television, if you are too calm you might not stand out especially in an era of confrontational television. In this regard, one might feel that Gov. Bush and Gov. Walker are calm leaders. On the other hand, you might feel they lack passion.

Humor is another double-edged sword. Overdo it and people think you aren't serious. Do it just right, you come across as authentic.

Gov. Huckabee got off some zingers but might have gone to that well a little too much. Dr. Carson was on target on this front.

Sharing some personal stories can help connect with voters and so Sen. Rubio and Sen. Cruz humanized themselves with their family histories though Gov. Kasich mentioning his postman father twice might have been a bit too much.

Democrat voters are more likely to nominate younger candidates. They nominated Clinton/Gore in 1992 and Obama in 2008. The Republicans have tended to go with more experienced candidates. Also, if they have anyone younger on the ticket, they usually go in the VP slot. Thus, Sen. Rubio and Sen. Cruz in GOP world are primed for VP slots unless the preference for more experienced candidates has faded. If there was a Democratic politician with Sen. Rubio or Sen. Cruz's personal stories and excellent communication skills, I would think Hillary Clinton's front-runner status would be seriously dented much as Sen. Obama that in 2008?

In any case, winnowing will eventually take place and it will come down to a "final four." As I see it there are two slots for governors which is currently held by Bush and Walker though Christie and Kasich made a strong introduction of themselves last night. There is one slot for the young rising star which Rubio and Cruz can fill with Rubio with a slight edge. And the fourth slot belonging to someone who sends a message. In this category is Trump, Huckabee, Paul, and Carson. Of these four, I think Carson has the most staying power as Trump and Paul may wear out their welcomes and Huckabee is old news. The wild card is whether somebody from the other seven can break into the top tier. Fiorina probably has the best chance with her biography and communication skills. But in order for her to break through, some of the top ten will need to drop out.