Grand Ol’ Debate: Closing in on a nominee

Constance Atton I Lariat Photographer

Wednesday’s Republican primary debate was the second in a series of GOP debates before a presidential nominee is chosen in 2016. Televised debates are one of the best ways for potential candidates to connect with their voter base, and Wednesday’s debate allowed a few candidates in particular to shine above the rest. Here are three things you should know about the lasting impact the debate will have leading up to the GOP convention next year.

1. Fiorina is in it to win it

If you got nothing else out of Wednesday’s debate, you should know that Carly Fiorina is on her way to being a major contender for the Republican nomination. After her failure to appear at the GOP’s first debate in Cleveland on Aug. 6, Fiorina’s supporters have been out in full force to make sure Fiorina is given the air time they believe she deserves. Their hard work paid off, and Fiorina wasted no time silencing her nay-sayers and positioning herself as a major force for the party nomination.

Not only was Fiorina able to silence front-runner Donald Trump during the first half of the debate, but she also outshined nearly all other candidates on knowledge of policy. Throughout the course of the debate, Fiorina remained above the fray the other candidates partook in, and gave true, heartfelt answers to questions posed to her, particularly about Planned Parenthood and Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

Fiorina’s stellar performance at the debate showcased her extensive knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs, and may have been just what she needed to boost her rankings in the polls. If this emerging trend continues, we could soon see Fiorina fighting for front-runner with Trump and Bush.

2. Trump’s days of leading the polls are numbered

With Trump leading second-place contender Ben Carson by more than 15 points, it seems as though Trump’s nomination is almost inevitable. This debate, however, may have been the beginning of the end for the real estate mogul’s bid for the presidency.

Like in the first GOP debate in Cleveland, Trump wasted no time attacking his opponents both politically and personally. In the first half of the debate alone, Trump personally attacked the appearance of U.S. senator Rand Paul and accused former Florida governor Jeb Bush of using his Hispanic wife as a means of garnering support from the U.S. Hispanic community.

As the debate went on, however, Trump appeared to have a difficult time responding to backlash from his fellow Republican contenders. One major highlight was Fiorina’s response to comments by Trump on the campaign trail about her appearance. Fiorina showed no mercy to the GOP front-runner, and quickly caught the attention of not just her fellow candidates, but also the American public.

When compared alongside powerful and lasting performances by Fiorina and Bush, Trump’s numbers may start to decline rapidly as people become less and less enthusiastic about Trump’s apparent willingness to focus more on tearing down his fellow opponents than providing actual answers to questions on the minds of everyday Americans.

3. Jeb is in it for the long run

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush may not have performed as well as Trump or Fiorina, but he certainly didn’t suffer from his better-than-average performance.

Bush has set himself apart from his fellow GOP candidates by being the antithesis of Trump – calm and deliberative instead of crass and insulting. This strategy could play well for the former governor, who has the money and support from the GOP establishment to wage all-out war on Trump. Bush may have a tougher time fending off the equally-collected Fiorina, as a debate between them would be less about money and more about policy.

Bush may not be the most popular candidate in the field, but there’s still a long way to go before a nominee is chosen – meaning plenty of time to stay cool, collective and above the fray.

Eric Vining is a junior political science and journalism dual major from Houston.