CNN hosted the second of the Republican Presidential Primary debates on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015 at the Reagan Library in California. The main debate, which started at 5 p.m. PST, featured the top 11 candidates who were leading in the polls. The trailing four candidates were in a separate debate that started early in the evening, at 3 p.m. PST, otherwise known as the “happy hour” debate.
The main debate was full of surprises, from the high-five shared between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, to the surprising amount of focus the candidates gave to Supreme Court appointments. The largest surprise out of the debate, however, is that Trump was not the winner. That title belongs to the former business executive and sole woman on the stage, Carly Fiorina, according to Politico.
Fiorina’s rise to prominence began when she won the first Republican debate among the candidates who were trailing in the polls. Due to her success, CNN decided to allow 11 candidates on the main debate stage, according to Politico. This meant that Rick Perry, George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Lindsay Graham and Rick Santorum were able to participate at the “happy hour” debate, according to Politico.
Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore did not poll high enough to make it into the debate, and candidate Rick Perry dropped out before the debate occurred, according to Politico.
Colin Swearingen of the John Carroll University Political Science Department stated, “A couple of candidates stood out to me as being effective. One, Carly Fiorina. There certainly seems to be consensus among pundits from left to the right that she did extremely well.” Swearingen continued to name Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush as candidates who were also successful.
Fiorina’s success was not the only takeaway from the debate. Many political analysts are saying that one important factor was “The Donald.” Despite expectations, Trump was one of the losers of the debate.
Two factors that lead to this were his low energy, compared to the first debate, as well as the extent to which other candidates were able to effectively respond to his former insults, according to NPR. One of the most memorable moments of the night came when Fiorina was asked to respond to a Trump comment, in which he stated, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Fiorina responded, “Women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
At the “happy hour” debate, many pundits are reporting that Lindsey Graham was the winner, according to Politico. While some political analysts may view this as a positive for the Republican Senator of S.C., as Carly Fiorina was able to surge after her win, others do not see is as important.
“People spoke highly of how Lindsey Graham performed,” Swearingen said. “But [he] has such overwhelming negatives with the Republican voters. He was polling in single digits in his own state. It is just too much of a hill for him to climb up.”
Swearingen continued on to say that, although he did not predict any of the “happy hour” candidates to drop out anytime soon, he did not see them succeeding on to the main stage, either.
Governor Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race on Monday, Sept. 21. The former favorite to win the nomination started off the race for the presidency strong, but quickly lost steam in the polls. His decision to drop out was in part to open up the Republican field and due to a lack of campaign funds, according to NPR.
As the primary elections come closer, and more presidential events occur, there is an expectation that many more candidates, like former Texas Governor Rick Perry, will withdraw from the race.
Editor’s Note: Information from Politico, NPR, BBC News and Colin Swearingen was used in this report.