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GOP Debate III Post Mortem: Trump Top, Fiorina Flop, Bush (& CNBC) Biggest Loser

"Debates in Turmoil" would have been an appropriate summary for tonight's free-for-all CNBC-sponsored screamfest in Boulder, Colorado. Argumentative moderators, mis-stated facts, time complaints, and general whining was everywhere but Trump still managed to come out the other side of this gauntlet unscathed. One major highlight included Santelli and Paul pushing 'Audit The Fed', calls for gold-backed currency,and exclaimed that The Fed "has been a great problem" in US society. However, what was odd was the apparent slights to Trump and Carson (questioned less directly) which resulted in an aberrantly low 'talking time' for the leading candidates.

Lindsey Graham won the undercard...

Lindsey Graham stands out in second-tier


— The Hill (@thehill)



But across all polls, Trump was the clear winner in the main event (and Bush nearly the biggest loser)...

Source: Drudge (left) and CNBC (right)

And Bush was the "biggest loser"..Jeb Bush finally, 85 minutes in, gets to talk about his plan for 4% growth. It’s hard to figure how bland talk of reform is going to win him much new support. There was no applause for his explanation...


declares the “Certain loser” in tonight’s

— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360)

Trump also had the best "one-liners"...


*  *  *

Some highlights included:

Christie going off on Moderator Harwoord...

Christie to CNBC moderator: "Even in New Jersey what you're doing is called rude"

— The Hill (@thehill)

And slamming government regulation of Fantasy Football...


on whether government should regulate fantasy football: "Seriously?"

— POLITICO (@politico)

Fiorina nailed government excess...

Fiorina: Whenever government gets involved, "it gets worse”

— The Hill (@thehill)

Huckabee said something that made some sense...

Huckabee: Trump would be a better president every day of the week...than Hillary

— The Hill (@thehill)

Trump reacts to Harwood...

CNBC moderator jabs Trump: "Is this a comic book version of a campaign?"

— The Hill (@thehill)

Cruz slams CNBC...

Cruz: This debate is "why the American people don’t trust the media"; WATCH:

— The Hill (@thehill)

Trump sent Bush a message...

Jeb, just suspend your campaign now. Literally no one cares. I've never seen a bigger choke job.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonldTrump)

    As Politico report, CNBC was also the biggest loser...    

The CNBC-moderated debate became, at crucial moments, a debate about CNBC, as various candidates and, at times, the audience, turned the tables on the network’s three moderators.


The repeated bursts of anger and anarchy were prompted, in part, by questions from the moderators that veered, at times, beyond sharp into contentiousness. By the end of the first hour, the audience seemed to be siding with the candidates, booing when CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla seemed to play gotcha with Ben Carson about his past work for a questionable company.




The pattern was established very early by Donald Trump, spurred by a question about his tax plan from CNBC’s John Harwood that suggested the businessman was running a “comic-book” campaign. Trump angrily proclaimed that the network’s own star host, Larry Kudlow, had praised his tax plan.


Soon after, Texas senator Ted Cruz picked up the cudgel declaring, in response to a question from Quintanilla about raising the debt ceiling, “Let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. The questions shouldn’t be getting people to tear into each other.”


Cruz, his voice rising in indignation, cited Harwood’s “comic-book” question to Trump and one from CNBC’s Becky Quick to Carson that declared that his flat-tax plan wouldn’t bring in nearly as much revenue as he claimed. After Cruz waxed on about a double standard between Democratic and Republican debates, Quintanilla seemed visibly irritated, and he and Harwood each refused to give Cruz any extra time to answer the original question.


A few minutes later, they seemed to think better of it and did give Cruz the time. But the spuriousness of the decision left them open to further expressions of outrage by other candidates whenever the moderators tried to cut them off.


The unruly atmosphere was a far cry from what CNBC seemed to want and expect, from a gauzy opening photo montage to a series of promotions emphasizing what Quintanilla, at the outset, called, “CNBC’s top experts in the markets and personal finance” and “the best team in business” journalism.


"The CNBC anchors are just desperately filling airtime with absolute nonsense to kill time,” conservative writer John Tabin tweeted.

*  *  *

@NYTGraphics did an excellent job of breaking down key aspects of each candidate's plans...

All of the candidates in the

favor lowering Americans’ income tax burden.

— NYT Graphics (@nytgraphics)

Several candidates in the

have spoken out against the recent budget deal.

— NYT Graphics (@nytgraphics)

Republican candidates have offered many strategies for Social Security reform.

— NYT Graphics (@nytgraphics)

*  *  *

A lot of social media was notably disturbed by the lack of direct questioning and comments for Trump and Carson...

Moderators not giving and questions. Deliberate slight to diminish their ratings

— Tangoqueen (@HostetterGmail)

Which led to aberrantly low talking times for the highest-ranking nominees in the polls...


Wow. Bush has the shortest talking time. His campaign...

— Shari (@circuitangel)



Thanks for the laughs,

— FreakyDeak (@DeakInABox)

Finally, a little context for tonight's debate...

America is going to be OK.

— Philip Bump (@pbump)