GOP Fight Night

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“Don't call it a comeback – 
I’ve been here for years!
Rocking my peers and putting suckas in fear.
Making the tears rain down like a monsoon;
Listen to the bass go boom!
Explosion, overpowering – 
Over the competition, I'm towering…
Wrecking shop, when I drop these lyrics that’ll make you call the cops.
Don’t you dare stare, you betta move…
Don’t ever compare
Me to the rest that’ll all get sliced and diced…
Competition’s paying the price.
 
[Chorus]
I'm gonna knock you out!
Mama said knock you out!”
 
Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker. Gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble! 
 
And so began the first fight night. Live from Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday night, the top 10 men – as determined by an algorithm known only to the fine people at the Fox News Channel – entered the GOP's stage. What had been billed in advance as the most anticipated political debate in recent memory lived up to the hype. As the first official debate among those vying for the 2016 Republican nomination for president took place, I watched FNC with great interest and anticipation. I knew it would be good. I knew there would be winners and losers. That was to be expected. I knew that an underdog would rise to the moment and emerge as a top dog. That doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s special. Some candidates conventional wisdom suggested would do well actually did poorly – and vice versa. A few political pros on that stage came off like rank amateurs – and vice versa. A couple of candidates who were credible before Thursday night are seen today as not credible. 
 
Boxing has long been referred to as “the sweet science.” Candidates for political office are quite comparable to professional boxers. Boxers and politicians both spending countless hours training. Boxers and politicians each need a top-notch manager. Members of both vocations often get hit publicly – and must hit back even while defending themselves. Politicians – like boxers – must always believe in themselves, especially when no one else does. Politicians – like boxers – are constantly striving for victory. Much like the aforementioned lyrics of LL Cool J’s Grammy-winning song, boxers and politicians are waiting for the opportunity to knock out their opponents. 
 
“Don’t you call this a regular jam – 
I’m gonna rock this land.
I’m gonna take this itty bitty world by storm…
And I’m just getting warm.”
 
In my not-so-humble opinion, there were three 2016 Republican candidates for president who had very good nights: Senator Marco Rubio (Florida), Governor John Kasich (Ohio), and Donald J. Trump. Senator Rubio looked and sounded presidential. He answered the moderator’s questions in a straightforward fashion – with frequent references to his platform. Governor Kasich took full advantage of the home field advantage which comes when the first GOP debate is held in his state. Kasich was the epitome of a compassionate conservative – and I mean that in the very best way. He managed to interweave the concepts of unity, respect, tolerance, and good stewardship alongside a positive defense of traditional Republican values. Kasich was well prepared – and the crowd applauded the Governor frequently and enthusiastically. 
 
As for the man known as the Donald, he might have finally made a believer out of me. It was clear in advance to anyone paying attention that Thursday night’s debate was going to be hostile territory for Trump. With his surging poll numbers nationally, his status as the 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner, and his propensity for unfiltered tough talk, he knew that his rivals on that stage would attack him. They had to. It was only a matter of who and when. When Rand Paul threw a jab, Trump responded with a haymaker. Most notably, when Trump started the debate by repeatedly refusing to pledge not to run against the Republican Party as a third-party candidate for president, it cemented his rock star status – for the crowd in Cleveland and for Trump supporters throughout America. For the rest of the debate, his fellow candidates either complimented him or openly asked him for campaign contributions because none of them wanted Trump to do to them what he had already done to Rand Paul – which was to score a technical knockout.
 
Chris Christie showed some fight. Christie landed some heavy verbal blows on Paul, too. Ted Cruz seemed distracted/detached. Scott Walker came off a bit too smug for my liking.
 
Jeb Bush managed to knock himself out as the Iraq question continues to swallow him whole. Mike Huckabee did his best impression of Mickey from the “Rocky” movies – bitter and tired. Ben Carson – though clearly brilliant – is in over his head. 
 
Trump’s appeal seems long-term, not short-term. The GOP answers to him.
 
The candidates came, they saw, and they sparred. Some knocked out somebody, others got knocked out by somebody else. That’s fight night for you. Mama said.
 
 

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