FBN/WSJ Republican Debate Recap

Story Highlights

Leaders Donald Trump and Ben Carson did nothing to change their standing.

Marco Rubio helped his cause with another strong performance

Jeb Bush had his best performance yet, but still lagged behind the other contenders


On Tuesday, November 11 at 9pm, the 8 leading Republican presidential candidates gathered in Milwaukee for the fourth debate of the race. Hosted by the Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal, the debate was centered on the economy. Notable issues such as tax plans and immigration came up often. The consensus is that this was the best-run debate yet– the moderators asked better questions and did more to make it about the candidates. Let’s see how the contenders did, in the same order as the polls.


Donald Trump

Comparing what Donald Trump is like on the campaign trail to what he’s like on the debate stage, someone could think it was a different person. Whereas on the campaign trail he is often seen criticizing his opponents, he actually has been rather respectful on the debate stage, at one point even asking the moderators to let Jeb Bush speak.

The most notable policies that Trump spoke about were his immigration strategy and foreign policy. Despite having a different plan on how to deal with immigration from everyone else on the stage, he made his argument for mass deportation and building a wall sound like the only option, no matter how ridiculous a plan most people believe it is. He also argued against “being the world’s policeman” in foreign policy. The one major slip-up for Trump was when Rand Paul called him out for saying that China was involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal between the U.S. and 11 other countries that China isn’t involved in.

All in all, Trump certainly didn’t come off as the best candidate in this debate. But, he also didn’t do anything that would cause him to lose support. Expect him to remain hovering around 24% in the polls.


Ben Carson

The other candidate hovering around 24%, Ben Carson had a similar performance to Trump’s. While the retired neurosurgeon did nothing spectacular, he also did nothing to take away the support that he already has. He drew applause when he first responded to a question about how the criticism from the media has affected his campaign. “Thank you for not asking me what I said in the 10th grade,” he said. He followed that by saying he believes all candidates should be vetted, but he has a problem with “being lied about and then (the media) putting that out there as truth.”

On the other side of things, Carson never got too specific on policies, instead giving confusing responses to issues such as ISIS. His calm demeanor has definitely helped him here, because it endears potential voters who aren’t strong on policy to him. He also was able to draw applause in his closing statement, saying “there is something special about this nation, and we must embrace it and be proud of it and never give it away for the sake of political correctness.”


Marco Rubio

It’s looking more and more like Rubio will end up being the establishment’s pick to run for president. The 44-year-old Florida Senator has performed admirably in the past two debates, not being phased by any questions or criticisms. When Rand Paul said that his plan to spend billions on the military wasn’t conservative, he responded “We can’t even have an economy if we’re not safe… I know the world is a safer and better place when America is the strongest military power in the world,” drawing thunderous applause.

Rubio also did a good job answering why someone should vote for him instead of Hillary Clinton. He said afterwards that he’s been waiting to answer that exact question, and he had the perfect answer ready, calling it a “generational choice.” Similar to Barack Obama’s campaign 7 years ago, Rubio played up the fact that he’s a younger and fresher face, portraying himself as a different Republican candidate than in years past.

Rubio has been rising in the polls slowly ever since the last debate, and don’t expect that to stop.


Ted Cruz

At one point early on in the debate, Cruz was listing off the 5 agencies that he would abolish if he were elected president. He named the Department of Commerce twice.

Despite this snag, the Texas Senator rallied and had another fine debate performance, and, like Rubio, is expected to continue his rise in the polls. His most powerful moments came when he was describing how his hardline view on immigration was not “anti-immigrant.”

As the son of legal Cuban immigrants, Cruz built a great argument defending legal immigration. He described how people who immigrated here illegally are hurting the economy and forcing people who are here legally to either work for less or not work. Unlike Trump, who made his similar position rather unsympathetic, Cruz argued for the same thing, but much more eloquently.


Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush had his best debate performance to date, although that isn’t saying much. He succeeded in his goal of spending more time speaking this time around. His most successful moments occurred when he challenged Trump. His biggest applause occurred following Trump’s assertion that we should deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, saying, “it’s just not possible and it’s not embracing American values.”

Although he didn’t do enough to appear to be the leader by any means, Bush’s performance did help in other ways. The biggest of these is that he was able to ease the worries of most of his supporters and donors. He also secured the endorsement of former Presidential candidate Bob Dole, which has his team excited.


Other Candidates

Of the three candidates earning less than 5% in the polls, Rand Paul stood out the most during Tuesday’s debate. The libertarian actually made some good points several times, including calling out Trump for being wrong about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and having a long conversation with Rubio on foreign policy.

Carly Fiorina had another strong debate performance as well, although it’s questionable how much it will help her in the polls. She clearly used her experience as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to help her case on foreign policy, going into good detail. She described how she would handle the Middle East, as well as her plan for dealing with Putin and Russia.

The least inspiring performance of Tuesday’s debate belonged to Ohio governor John Kasich. Throughout the debate he interrupted both the moderators and other candidates, to the point that Trump had to ask if he would let Jeb Bush speak. It would be surprising if he gained any ground in the race.

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