Nobody likes to sit at the "kids' table" or wait on the bench as the varsity players shine. For the first time in the history of primary debates seven Republican candidates for president found themselves relegated to the second tier in Cleveland.
Due to the large number of candidates, Fox News selected 10 candidates for a prime time slot and seven for an afternoon session. The candidates invited to be on stage for the early debate were: Rick Perry, Texas' longest-serving governor; Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator; Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana; Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard; Lindsey Graham senator from South Carolina; George Pataki, three-term governor of New York; and Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore.
Americans were looking for a standout to emerge from the crowd. But in general all seven were simply competent. In opening statements they touted their resumes and those were impressive. They seemed ready for debate and no one really bombed, although Jindal and Gilmore seemed understated.
It took a while for tangible energy and passion to surface during the debate. Graham caught the first warning bell when he vehemently answered a question about national security, declaring a "whatever-it-takes" policy. He was extremely forceful when speaking on the threats that our nation faces.
Fiorina was strong on foreign policy but probably failed to deliver the knock-out performance many politicos expected from her. She was precise and decisive. Fiorina seemed in command of the details of foreign policy mistakes the Obama administration has made.
Perry has obviously improved since 2012. He was focused and confident. while detailing his achievements as Texas' governor. He made points about protecting the porous border and his state's record-breaking job creation during his time as governor.
Santorum tried to channel Ronald Reagan in talking about the future of the country, but often seemed less forceful than in previous campaigns.
All the candidates agreed on undoing Obama's executive orders immediately after taking office. They also mentioned the need to restore America's spirit and had responses ready when asked how they would inspire the country. Fiorina's comment about Americans' potential being crushed was particularly strong.
The candidates seemed to know America is looking for change and looking for someone to lead a resurgence of greatness. When asked to describe Hillary Clinton, the entire group labeled her divisive and dishonest.
In all, the first debate was a critical test that the GOP candidates were prepared for and several gave strong performances despite being designated second string.
REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE