The Biggest Reality Show on Earth: The 2016 Republican Presidential Debates

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Fox News FNC Facebook GOP Republican Debate

Okay, go ahead and ask the inevitable question: Why in the world is CriticalBlast delving into political coverage?

Well, that's a very good question. I could say that it's technically political theater, but you'd see right through that. But the truth is that this door was opened by reality star host of THE APPRENTICE, Donald Trump. So we thought it would be fun to sort of grade the speakers tonight, based on their presentations and speaking skills, and ask you via our poll below who you felt did the best job of the evening.

Before the questions even come, we're reminded that the Happy Hour Debate winner seems to have been overwhelmingly Carly Fiorina, as Megyn Kelly bluntly laid out there. Chris wallace reminds us that the questions were submitted by the populace through Facebook.

The Rules: 1 minute per answers, 30 seconds for follow-ups. Let's see how well that gets followed!

Bret Baier begins with a hand-raising question to the entire group: Who is unwilling to pledge support to the eventual nominee, and not run an independent campaign? Donald Trump is quickly the only one to raise his hand, as the question was obviously crafted for him. The crowd boos, and Ron Paul jumps in to accuse him of hedging his bets on the Clintons. Trump counters that he has given Paul plenty of money. He says he pledges not to run as an independent -- if he gets the Republican nominee.

That sets the tone: Trump, meeting expectations, takes the offered opportunity to give the impolite answer. He takes a lot of booing from the audience, but it doesn't visibly cow him.

After that point, the candidates all get to give their take on various questions from the moderators, and some from Facebook that go through the moderators. The topics ranged from things they've said in their past which go against things they seem to represent today, the economy, national security, and immigration. To be sure, this "debate" was not a true debate -- at least, not most of the time. This was a "Meet the Candidates" forum, with very little back and forth -- not that there wasn't some! And when there was back and forth, it was unscheduled, and you could always count on it being Rand Paul who would jump in to rebut things. When Chris Christie talks about the NSA's monitoring and his support for that, Paul jumps in with the 4th amendment argument. When Christie responds, strongly, "That's ridiculous," we're set up for the only real dust-up of the evening. The only other one to really rival that would come with the antagonistic approach of Megyn Kelly to Donald Trump, who asks about his statements about women int he past, calling women "fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals." Trump interjects, "Only Rosie O'Donnell," which is met with cheers.

So, overall, how did they come across?

Donald Trump: Trump is easily a front runner in his manner of presentation. He knows how to be the public speaker. He's at ease in front of a large crowd, and doesn't hesitate in his answers. He knew what he was going to say in advance and said it without obvious reference to notes. He was obviously at ease at the microphone. On substance, he was a little light when asked for concrete evidence of some of his statements, which turned out to be anecdotal. He knows how to control his voice and use the time limits so that he gets more strident toward the end of his allotment.

Jeb Bush: Bush was able to quote the facts and figures of his own career. Like his brother before him, he has moments where he makes a few false starts in his sentences, and he tended to bring almost every question back around to his packaged narrative of turning immigration reform into an economic engine. Still, he was mostly at ease, and didn't get very emotional in his responses.

scott Walker: Unsurprisingly, like any other governor, Walker was able to relate most questions to his performance in Wisconsin, where his chief achievements were in standing up to government unions and surviving the subsequent targetings of him afterward. His mannerisms, though, were stiff, and he just didn't seem to be that spontaneous for the most part. There were some moments where he was able to pull in current event factoids that were a bit of a surprise, tying them together in an unexpected fashion, and that's a good sign that he can think on his feet.

Ben Carson: He's a brain surgeon. That's his experience, and he'll bring that up in all his responses. In fact, his lack of political experience is brought up in the first question given to him. He delivers answers that are clear, but with a lethargy, and he's looking down at his notes. There's very little energy in his speechmaking.

Mike Huckabee: If Carson's speaking lacked energy, Huckabee's was brimming with it. Being a pastor and a former talk show host, Huckabee knows how to address an audience with years of experience. However, like other candidates, his prepared responses were something of a one-trick pony, often bringing things back around to a religious perspective. He's good with a joke, and knows how to work an audience, and that clearly shows.

Ted Cruz: Cruz's style of response is firebrand, but almost cookie-cutter firebrand. He does get in a different perspective on things like the recent cyber attacks, tying them into the Iranian general's visit to Russia. But when it comes to closing statement time, he delivers the "red meat" line items with a rapidity that shows he's been holding these throughout the debate.

Rand Paul: Rand Paul brought a gun to a knife fight, only to find out it was a cotillion. He wanted a fight, and jumped in twice during others responses tonight to try to stir one up, with Christie and with Trump. Unfortunately for him (and viewers) these fights didn't ultimately amount to much, and he seemed to be straining at the reins the rest of the debate hoping for an opening to fully let loose. He highlights his differences from the other candidates during his closing remarks, which did manage to distinguish himself from the records of the others on the stage.

Marco Rubio: Some of the speakers tonight were stiff. Rubio was a mannekin. There was very little emotion in his voice, and very little arm movement. His speaking was very practiced, and his pacing extremely professional, but it was to the point that I felt I was watching an infomercial for a legal firm. It felt too practiced, and just not very emotive.

Chris Christie: There were three people on the stage that I think people expected fire from -- Trump, Paul and Christie. Christie, however, was very calm and collected, almost sedate for the New Jersey governor we've seen in the past. The only time he got his hackles up was when he was confronted by Rand Paul. His rebuttal to Paul's accusations over "the hug" the governor gave President Obama was biting and well-targeted, stating that the hugs he remembers more were the ones for the families of the victims of 9/11, as he continued to rely on his anti-terrorism background. It wasn't the brawler I was expecting, but it was surprisingly well-done.

John Kasich: Kasich was quick and facile with the facts and figures. He highlights his middle-class upbringing, and is at ease but not too at ease behind the podium. Kasich's presentation differed from the others, with perhaps the exception of Paul, in that it was delivered very sternly, and with complete seriousness. I don't think the gentleman cracked any jokes during the evening. I would predict Kasich to get quite the poll number boost from his performance tonight.

So those are my observations, employing a little bit of my Toastmasters evaluation training. But I'm only one man. So help us out, and tell us and everyone else through our poll below: Who do you think did the best job of all the candidates tonight?

Who do you think came out best in the Republican debates?

Donald Trump
 

DebateBushJeb Bush
 

Scott Walker
 
 

Ben Carson

Mike Huckabee

Ted Cruz

Rand Paul
 
 

Marco Rubio
 

Chris Christie

John Kasich
 

Poll Maker