Now that it’s a week from the Republican debates we can digest original reactions and run them against recent changes in the polls. It’s become pretty clear last weeks debates have turned the race on it’s head. Debates rarely effect elections except at the margins because most folks go in with their minds made up looking for “their person” to score points. This was different. With 17 Republicans running most folks have no idea who they are supporting. Most of the candidates are within a few points of each other. Fox news had the prime time debate among the top ten candidates and the other 7 second tier candidates debate earlier in the day at 5pm. This list is the three top losers, tomorrow will be the 3 top winners.
His core supporters are defending his performance but Trump looked out of his league on stage. He let himself get dragged into a back and forth with host Megyn Kelly about his previous derogatory comments towards women. He also refused to rule out and independent run or to support the eventual Republican nominee. This didn’t sit well with Republican voters looking to take the White House.
Scott Walker came into the debate as a leader of the Republican pack and the first or second choice among many Republicans. In some ways the debate was his to lose. The biggest concern among Republicans was that Walker may need to expand his domestic and foreign policy chops. Unfortunately for Walker that is exactly how he presented himself. He didn’t fall flat on his face but he didn’t turn any heads either. He needed to demonstrate stature and a vision of the future of the country but he appeared to cede that role to Marco Rubio and John Kasich.
The biggest loser last Thursday wasn’t even on the stage. Hillary Clinton may be popular with Democrat baby boomers but younger voters of both genders do not have the same affinity for the Clinton years. What they saw on stage Thursday was a crop of young vibrant forward looking future leaders. This could explain why Hillary rushed out this week to unveil her new plan for free college and woo young voters. The Republicans on stage Thursday included a black neurosurgeon, a female CEO, two Hispanic sons of immigrants and 3 successful governors. Most of these candidates were relatively young and had a vision for the future. It will be difficult generationally and optically for Hillary Clinton to compete with that. (Same goes for Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders)