Thursday evening saw the first Republican debate for the 2016 presidential race, and it was likely the first time many Americans had seen or heard from some of the candidates with lower polling numbers. During the Republican forum, which aired several hours ahead of the primetime debate, the seven Republican nominees who were not polling in the top 10 took the stage to discuss ISIS, the economy, and of course, Donald Trump. The candidate who stood out the most in this group, and who has been declared the winner of the forum by most Internet users, was the only candidate in the forum with no political experience: Carly Fiorina. Fiorina absolutely commanded the room, and showed much more of an authoritative air than several of her colleagues onstage. In fact she so dominated her debate that I'm sure some of the primetime candidates would have done better with Fiorina's answers.
Watching both the forum and the debate, Fiorina seemed like she would be competitive with any mixture of the candidates. Her responses were clearly thoroughly rehearsed, but she was able to deliver them in a manner that read as informed, thoughtful, and authoritative. While a few of the candidates in the primetime debate did well, it's a good bet that they all would have done better had they taken a page out of Fiorina's book and had some of her answers up their suit sleeves. Already sounding like a pro despite her lack of political experience, here are some of Fiorina's lines that would have improved any primetime candidate's performance.
When asked about Trump's runaway success in the polls so far and whether or not Trump was "getting the better" of her, Fiorina went right for the jugular that her conservative base would get riled up by: Trump's longstanding friendship with the Clinton family. Fiorina said,
I didn't get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn't. Maybe it's because I hadn't given money to the foundation or donated to his wife's Senate campaign.
The swiftness with which Fiorina delivered the comment (which was her first of the evening) and the way she immediately drew attention to Trump's friendship with the person who is now the largest threat to a Republican presidency, Hillary Clinton, was not quite something candidates during the debate were able to accomplish. At times, the other top 10 candidates seemed afraid to truly go at Trump, whereas Fiorina didn't hesitate to go for the zing.
Speaking about her first day in office, Fiorina sounded like she already had a real plan in place for making the changes many in her party would like to see, one of these changes being a "tougher" deal with Iran. Fiorina said that her first day in office, she'd make a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reassure him of the U.S.' allegiance to Israel, and,
The second will be to the supreme leader of Iran. He might not take my phone call, but he would get the message, and the message is this: Until you open every nuclear and every military facility to full, open, anytime/anywhere, for real, inspections, we are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money around the global financial system.
No other candidate in the forum or the debate was able to so clearly articulate a plan of action for their first days in the Oval Office. Fiorina's succinctness is something the top 10 should have taken note of for their own responses in their debate.
On Early Plans
Asked what they would intend to make their first order as president, Fiorina responded by posing herself as diametrically opposed to President Obama on matters of ideology and policy saying:
I agree with my colleagues. We need to begin by undoing — I would begin by undoing a whole set of things that President Obama has done, whether it's illegal amnesty or this latest round of EPA regulations.
Republicans are not at all pleased with the president right now, so by positioning herself as opposed to any and all of his policies, but also aligning herself with her fellow candidates, Fiorina was incredibly decisive in her remarks, but no divisive like Trump, Christie, and Paul were during primetime.
On Hillary Clinton
During the primetime debate, the top 10 candidates seemed more content to make cheap jabs about Clinton, Fiorina went a somewhat more substantive route, hitting on the perceived weaknesses of the Clinton campaign that are likely to resonate with Republican voters:
Hillary Clinton lies about Benghazi, she lies about e- mails. She is still defending Planned Parenthood, and she is still her party's frontrunner.
Fiorina also recognized that Clinton is a legitimate contender, which is necessary to acknowledge, as Clinton is likely the one the Republicans will have to beat. If I were a Republican voter, I might laugh at the jokes bandied around at Clinton's expense, but I'd also be a little nervous that the top 10 candidates don't seem to take her seriously as a threat to a Republican presidency.
Overall, Fiorina seemed to outshine every candidate in both debates. It was almost a shame not to see her have the chance to go head to head with Trump, Bush, and Walker during the primetime debate, because I suspect she would have swept them all.