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Fiorina Looks Best in Lackluster GOP Debate


Front-Runners Carson and Trump Weak

Carly-Fiorina.jpgWho won Tuesday night's fourth Republican Party nominee debate in Milwaukee?  No one sizzled, that's for sure. Carly Fiorina looked good. So did Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Front-runners Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson looked defensive. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush got in a few good sallies but continued to look unpresidential. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, often cited as the establishment's favorite, offered few substantial thrusts.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul tried hard, as did Ohio Gov. John Kasich but neither won cigars.

The debate, before a capacity audience of 5,000 at the renovated 106-year-old Milwaukee Theatre, offered few fireworks compared to the kickoff debate Aug. 6 in Cleveland, OH. That's when Trump and a Fox Business Network moderate clashed head-on. Fox and The Wall Street Journal sponsored the Milwaukee debate.

Tuesday night, however, Trump definitely didn't hog the limelight or own the most air time. He even was booed several times. Like when he asked, "Why does she keep interrupting everybody?"  Referring to Fiorina.

Their views differed sharply on the Islamic State terrorists, Russia and America's foreign policy. Trump wants the U.S. to stay out of foreign conflicts. The seven other candidates disagreed.

"If Putin wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it," Trump said, "but keep the U.S. out of it."

Let other countries in the Mideast tackle ISIS, the billionaire New York real estate developer said.  "They say, 'Keep going. Keep going, you dummies,' " Trump said. "We can't continue to be the policeman of the world."

Bush quickly spoke up. "We're not going to be the world's policeman, but we sure as heck have to be the world's leader," he said.

Trump was misunderstanding how both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Islamic State see the world, Bush said. "That's like a board game. That's like playing monopoly, that's not how the world works."

Fiorina called for a more aggressive U.S. policy against the terrorists, using both troops and diplomatic rebukes.

She said Trump was naïve about the danger Putin posed.  If elected President, she would not immediately talk with Putin, as President Barack Obama has recently done. ,

Trump, however, won some support on the terrorist issue from Paul. He called for more restraint in U.S. military interventions overseas .Paul criticized other candidates for calling for a U.S.-enforced "no-fly zone" in the region.

"You can be strong without being involved in every civil war around the world," Paul said.

When asked his view about the U.S. troops in Syria and Afghanistan, Carson said he agreed with Obama's decision on that move. But if he were elected President, his priority would be Iraq.

"In order to make the terrorists look like losers, we have to destroy their caliphate," he said. "Our goal is not to contain them, but to destroy them before they destroy us."

On immigration, the surprise of the evening may have been when Kasich took on Trump on that issue. He tried to belittle Trump's stand on sending back an estimated 11 million unregistered Hispanics and Mexicans living and working in the U.S.

"Come on, folks, we all know you can't pick them up and ship them back across the border," Kasich said. "It's a silly argument. It's not an adult argument." That marked one of the most direct challenges to Trump in this debate series so far.

Trump responded by citing deportations, done on a smaller scale, under former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s. "We have no choice," Trump said. "We have no choice."

Kasich continued to press Trump on immigration and almost got him to lose control. "I run a huge company," Trump told an unimpressed audience. "I don't have to hear from this man. Believe me," he said. The crowd booed. Trump did not respond further.

The fifth GOP debate is scheduled for Dec. 15 in Las Vegas and will be sponsored by CNN and the Salem Media Group.

With the candidate lineup now down to eight from the original 15, expect more cuts to be made as the debate schedule heads for 2016. I predict Kasich and Paul will drop out, slicing the field to six.

I also predict Carson will continue to overtake Trump at the polls as the caucuses in Iowa draw nearer in January and February.

And that's the way it is at this moment. 

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