Surreal GOP Debate Gets Surrealist Grades – Daily Beast

Here is the only debate scorecard that matters. We gave the candidates traditional grades in style and substance, and then a more whimsical “overall” one because, let’s be honest, grades are not a very useful metric for assessing political speech or events.

Donald Trump

Style: B-

Still gets most excited when he can talk about walls and winning. Because someone has a gun named Ben Carson at his head, he said nice-ish things about other candidates, though “You should let Bush talk” might also be the night’s sickest burn.

Substance: F

Rand Paul ripped the China-bashing right out from under his feet, and it becomes more and more clear that Trump is less a gifted public speaker than a human beat-box, spitting out variations of the same sounds over and over when pressed. Claimed to be Putin’s “stablemate” at one point, which is the kind of thing Santorum warned us about.

Overall: The last Danish left in the green room.


Ben Carson

Style: C+

He was totally awake for a lot of it.

Substance: D+

When he talked about the people who had died from drug overdoses during the time it took to have the debate, he resisted the urge to call them moral failures. On the other hand, flubbed his answer on ISIS by parroting the Trump Doctrine: “How do we make them look like losers?” At one point attributed the growth of the American economy between 1776 and 1876 to “entrepreneurship,” which is probably a correct representation of how the white people of that period would explain their success as well.

Overall: A blunted knife.


Marco Rubio

Style: B+

Teachers love this kid, always has his hand raised, very polite. When asked something he had a prepared answer for, called it “a good question,” a nice cue for those who have heard them before to take a little mental break. Smiles like Eddie Haskell, frowny-faces like someone who doesn’t want to go to bed yet.

Substance: C

Bravely tackled the huge philosopher glut in the current job market, endorsed welding instead, but what does that really mean? Lauded the growth of Candy Crush, which means I’m unfriending him immediately. Apparently has based his whole platform on gimmicky new economy success stories, and I look forward to the rollout of his plan to combat cyber-warfare by weaponizing “The Dress.”

Overall: Sad Elvis.


John Kasich

Style: B-

His hand gestures suggest debate coaching by Mr. Miyagi, his demeanor as well: Kasich doesn’t want to get the kids off his lawn, he just wants them to stand still and listen for minute, ok? If you’re gonna throw the football around, then you might as well do it right. Shush! Give it over here. Give it! This is not that hard! No, shhh, he’s talking.

Substance: B

Had some actual facts on hand and was clearly frustrated with the moderators’ acceptance of the other debaters’ ideas and other debaters, period. Said of Trump’s Build a Big Wall plan, “It’s not an adult argument,” which is generous because it’s not even an argument. Grumbled about philosopher kings, which gives further context to Rubio’s warning. You know what Madison said: “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be under the guise of logical positivism.”

Overall: Raisins in cookies.


Ted Cruz

Style: B-

Got tripped up naming the governmental departments he’d eliminate, naming Commerce twice, but seems at low risk for being Perry-ed because that’s just how much he hates the Commerce Department. Also, we were distracted from debating just how much of a clusterfuck it’d be if we got rid of the Commerce Department. Talked directly into the camera like he was going to ask you to lay hands on your TV. Often pauses for applause even when it hasn’t started.

Substance: C-

Tried to scare reporters into hysterical nationalism with the image of a bunch of people with “journalism degrees” crossing the Rio Grande, but, ha, joke’s on him: You can’t get a job with a journalism degree! Cruz comparing the length of the tax code to the Bible, which is better than the usual GOP tactic of trying to legislate what’s actually in the Bible.

Overall: A paper cut.


Jeb Bush

Style: F+

He so obviously didn’t want to be there, I suspect he somehow wasn’t. Could barely even protest getting interrupted. I’m giving him a F+ rather an F because pity.

Substance: F

At one point, started an anecdote, then stopped it, then tried to start it again and wound up saying, “Uh, anyway.” This is the epitaph of the Bush campaign.

Overall: Off-brand diet cola.


Carly Fiorina

Style: B+

Forest green looks fantastic on her, her hair was molten steel and her jaw was something even stronger. I don’t think her forehead moved but her teeth didn’t much either.

Substance: F

Said that “the secret sauce of America is entrepreneurship,” which it may be, but rampant inequality is the gray-pink meat by-product poor people are forced to eat. Spouted the same fake-specific military nonsense as before, with the same confidence. Cited Dodd-Frank as a “great example of how socialism starts,” which suggests she doesn’t understand socialism or banking regulations.

Overall: Needing to use the bathroom at the end of a long car ride.


Rand Paul

Style: B-

At this point, Rand realizes that he’s not going to win, so he’s using his time on the debate stage to prove to himself how much smarter he is, anyway. The “ACT-UAL-LY” at the beginning of every answer he gave was silent. Good thing he’s an ophthalmologist because he’s gonna damage his eyes from rolling them so much.

Substance: D

Wants to shrink government down to the size where “you can’t see it” (maybe he’s not a good ophthalmologist?), bristled at Rubio calling him a “committed isolationist” but Rubio has staked out a position that would make Reagan look isolationist. Did some funny math to make the assertion that income inequality is worse in states run by Democrats but, ha-ha, how many states are run by Democrats these days?

Overall: Watching Star Trek re-runs dubbed in a foreign language in your hotel, waiting for sleep to come.


Undercard debate


Mike Huckabee

Style: B-

Even his folksy aphorisms failed him (comparing the fluctuating dollar to something as “crazy as… the price of bread.”)

Substance: B-

Elevated above a C by dint of inventing “the poverty industry” as a political enemy. (Big Poverty, man, always keeping small, independent poverty producers down.)

Overall: The tears of a child on Christmas, a child who sent their allowance to the long-shot campaign of a former governor of a far-away state and now worries that gay Muslims will never stop saying “happy holidays” at Starbucks.


Rick Santorum

Style: C+

With a trimmer haircut and lips pressed as tight as an unmarried lady’s should be, Santorum radiated barely suppressed rage. And then he raged.

Substance: D

“America’s most important business is the family,” and corporations are people, and we all die alone.

Overall: Lamp.


Chris Christie

Style: A

No one does “I’m amused and disappointed with all of you” better than Chris Christie (and my mom, R.I.P.). To really shine in a debate, all Christie needed was a much lower bar.

Substance: C-

Mostly, Christie gamely tried to take advantage of an old Republican urban legend that says if you glower at the camera and say “Hillary Clinton” three times in a row while denouncing taxes, the ghost of Lee Atwater will appear and save your campaign.

Overall: A guy in a toll booth lane, desperately going through the seat cushions for change.


Bobby Jindal

Style: C+

With his Brylcreemed hair, Indian Howdy Doody came to the fight with all the great insults people once threw at him. Right now, he’s back at his hotel room, staring at the ceiling, wondering why that juice box line didn’t crush Christie the way it once crushed him.

Substance: D

He wants to get rid of *everyone* in Washington, and he’s got the intra-Republican oppo research to prove it. With polling this low, he’s gotta go with the high-risk strategy of alienating everyone.

Overall: Participation ribbon.


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