Last night, the first of many Republican presidential debates was jointly hosted by Fox News and Facebook.  Featuring two separate sections, a “happy hour” debate at 5:00 PM featuring those candidates that were furthest behind in the polls and a main event at 9:00 PM featuring the top ten contenders, all 17 candidates were given the chance to have their voices heard and to try–or fail–to win over potential supporters.

For those of you who were unable to spectate the events directly and formulate your own opinions, here are some of the biggest takeaways, complete with remarks from TCC’s own writers who were live-Tweeting the debate.

1) Trump got Trump’d


Despite fears that billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump would dominate the stage–fears real enough that Fox’s hosts had developed a secret plan to keep him from dominating the screen–the current polling leader actually showed his limits on stage.  While he did garner some big applause moments, the limited time format highlighted some of his more off-color remarks, and prompted some spectacular and tactless fireworks with the debate moderators.

Trump’s worst moment by far was a bad exchange with Megyn Kelly: after Trump was caught off-guard by a pointed question about past sexist remarks he’d made toward women, he tried to fire back by quipping that it was “Only Rosie O’Donnel.” However, when that tactic failed, he ended up issuing a veiled attack against Megyn for not treating him nicely.  As might have been expected, the audience didn’t react well to Trump’s antics, and pollster Frank Luntz’s focus group eviscerated Trump live on air.  Trump’s subsequent Twitter implosion in response to the debate was also somewhat predictable.

However, as Jim Geraghty at National Review points out, this isn’t all bad.  After all, when you look at someone who bloviated as badly as trump, the rest of the candidates on stage all appear much more reasonable–and much more electable.

2) Carly Fiorina Made Big Gains

Though Carly Fiorina was only included in the “happy hour” 5:00 PM debate, she still had a valuable moment on-stage when a video clip of some of her comments was included in the main debate.  And, as Fox’s exit polling from the 5:00 PM debate demonstrates, she was far and away the candidate who made the biggest gains of the night.

Fox Debate Exit Poll

3) Some Facts Were… Bendy

As numerous fact-checking organizations began doing their work, it became clear that many of the candidates in both the 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM debates were bending the facts just a bit to color their positions more effectively.  Politico’s “Wrongometer,” CNN, USA Today, FactCheck, and PolitiFact all had their own interpretations of the best and worst statements made by the candidates.  USA Today even went out of its way to do a quick fact check of the 5:00 PM debate.

Give them a read yourself to see which of those analyses you think hold up, and which you think are themselves worthy of a fact check.

4) Not All Candidates Fared Equally

While this isn’t the most earth-shattering news, the candidates didn’t get nearly an equal amount of questions, and some were far more challenging than others. While this worked out well for some candidates, others definitely floundered.  For example, conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer nailed Dr. Ben Carson as one of the weaker performers overall, despite a few successful moments.

HuffPo flagged Governors Jeb Bush and Scott Walker as two candidates who didn’t perform well with the time they had available.  This is especially troubling for them because, as FiveThirtyEight points out in the above Tweet, Bush and Walker fielded the first and second highest number of questions of all the candidates during the 9:00 PM debate, respectively. It will be interesting to see if they can course-correct in future public appearances, or if they will continue to lose ground as the months progress.

5) Huckabee Is Still A Thing, Apparently

Despite a general lack of media attention and a more modest showing of only 6% in national polls, and it appears that former Governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee is still a player in the race.  After the debate, the same Frank Luntz panel that destroyed Trump earlier identified Huckabee and Senator Ted Cruz as the candidates to whom the majority of the panelists had changed their allegiance.  This support was clear despite Huckabee’s near-blunder on the question of allowing transgender soldiers in the miltary: inelegantly, Huckabee said the military’s purpose is not to act as a social experiment, but is to “kill people and break things.”

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