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The McLaughlin Group

Issues: GOP Debates / Christie & Paul on Terrorism / Trump & Women / Entitlement Reform / Jeb Bush

Participants:
John McLaughlin, Host
Pat Buchanan, Author & Columnist
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast
Tom Rogan, National Review/Daily Telegraph
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

Taped: Friday, August 7, 2015
Broadcast: Weekend of August 7-9, 2015


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ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP, the American original. For over three decades, the sharpest minds, best sources, hardest talk.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: Issue One: Let the Debates Begin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I cannot say I have to respect the person that -- if it’s not me -- the person that wins. If I do win and I’m leading by a quite bit, that's what I want to do. I can totally make that pledge. If I’m the nominee, I will pledge, I will not run as an independent.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, whatever your issue, your cause, the festering problem you hoped would be resolved, the political class has failed you. That’s just the fact and that’s what Donald Trump taps into. I would also just say this, since he has changed his mind on amnesty, on health care and on abortion, I would just ask, what are the principles by which he will govern?

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): The first debates of the 2016 presidential election took place Thursday in Cleveland, Ohio, sponsored by FOX News and Facebook. In the primetime debates, the top ten Republican contenders, as determined by their standing in five national polls, faced off against each other. Seven more GOP candidates who came in below the threshold engaged in an earlier debate, at 5:00 p.m.

The GOP lineup this year includes nine governors and ex-governors, five senators or former senators and three political outsiders.

The nine governors are, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore. The first five made the cut for the top 10 debate. Collectively, the governors represent states composing 30 percent of the U.S. population, some 97 million people.

The five senators are: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham. Cruz, Rubio and Paul made the top 10 cut. Senators are representing 21 percent of the U.S. population.

Then, there are the political outsiders: Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina -- the first two of whom were in the top 10 debate.

Measured by their standing in the polls, the three Republican frontrunners are Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

The Democratic presidential debates are not yet scheduled, but are expected to kick off in Iowa this fall.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Were there any standout and standout moments in these debates?

Pat?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: Well, John, I think everybody is going to focus in on Donald Trump, and it was a very rough, tough night for him.

But I think basically what he did was he hardened and solidified his base and may have added to it, because he was in a battle with FOX News, Megyn Kelly and back and forth. So, I think, by and large, he helped himself or held his own.

As for the outsiders coming along, I think John Kasich clearly was a media favorite there in terms of how he ended his remarks and I think he came on very strong. So, I think he’s going to help himself.

I think Marco Rubio has helped himself, he was crisper, stronger and more mature than he’s been. So, I think those.

And as for the first, what they called a little table, in the first debate --

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The kids table.

BUCHANAN: Kids table -- everybody is unanimous that Carly Fiorina won it. But I thought Rick Perry, Rick Perry and I watched both debates, I thought Rick Perry did a good job.

MCLAUGHLIN: (INAUDIBLE) Mort’s candidate.

BUCHANAN: Well, I thought he did a fine job, at the little -- at the kids table.

(CROSSTALK)

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, yes. Fiorina was a standout in the early debate, which was in a cavernous hall without any audience. I mean, and she really has very striking poise and a lot of hard line statements that go over big with Republican Party.

But the main debate was staged by FOX News and conservatives are now all up in an uproar over the fact that FOX News commentators asked really tough questions.

And I think FOX really wanted everybody to know they’re a legitimate news network. They weren’t going to let anybody off the hook. And they went at Trump initially very hard, asking for a show of hands as to who -- they wanted everybody to pledge allegiance to the Republican Party and he refused to do it.

And at least he’s consistent and I think there are a lot of traditional Republicans who are kind of horrified that, if he doesn’t win the nomination he would run third party, and in fact hand the presidency to Hillary Clinton. And the context to that phone call he had with President Clinton sort of giving him the lay of the land and telling him he’s striking a nerve in the country. I mean, I don’t think that goes over well with the Republican base.

But, you know, Trump is a phenomenon. It’s not over yet. He’s a real sugar high I think for the country, just watching him perform.

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/DAILY TELEGRAPH: I think that, you know, Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, that, you know, if you watch the show, that’s what they do. They are tough questioners.

But, look, I think it was a very interesting debate. I think Carly Fiorina really stormed it. I think you’ll see her rising significantly in the polls in the coming days.

In the second debate, the primetime, I tend to think that Scott Walker pulled it up, mainly because Scott Walker is already popular with conservatives, right? The debate is toward something else. It’s not just in and of itself.

And so, Scott Walker, he made a couple of good lines on foreign policy, where he’s been weak before. He did enough there. I think Marco Rubio, again, that youthful charisma.

MCLAUGHLIN: What was Walker’s best one-liner?

ROGAN: I think Walker’s best one-liner was talking about -- when he talked about foreign policy and America’s position with our allies in the Middle East.

MCLAUGHLIN: His line that Russia and China know more about Hillary Clinton’s emails than Congress.

ROGAN: Well, that was a line that played well with the conservative base.

PAGE: That’s a good one.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you like that?

PAGE: Well, yeah, it was funny. But I want to distance myself from the notion that these were tough questions, that the questions asked. They were very good questions. They were precise. They were well-focused and they did their best to keep these politicians from wriggling up from under them.

And Donald Trump has some cheek -- I know it’s hard to believe. But Donald Trump has some cheek and gall to get mad at the journalists for quoting back to him his own quotes and saying, do you really mean to say this? Is this what a president ought to say?

That’s not a hard question. He turned it into an opportunity to beat up on FOX.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: It’s going to be a problem for him.

PAGE: And I’ll tell you -- one thing that’s audible here was that you saw Republicans beating up on FOX. I thought I’d never see that. But they got away with it.,

Go ahead.

BUCHANAN: But the point is, I think that the moderators were immoderate. I mean, they really went after Trump.

PAGE: Oh, come on.

BUCHANAN: You’re reading all these trashy comments he made from long ago.

CLIFT: Well --

BUCHANAN: They’re getting into the debate --

PAGE: Those aren’t immoderate --

BUCHANAN: They are trying to influence -- should the moderators in TV should be trying to influence the outcome of the Republican primaries? Because they were.

PAGE: Well, excuse me --

MCLAUGHLIN: Who did the best job swinging at a tough question? The answer is Kasich.

When asked about whether he will oppose gay marriage if one of his children were gay, he fired back that he’d just been to a friend’s gay wedding, knocking that question out of the ball park.

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: Yes, that was a very good answer and it was very pointed.

CLIFT: He also --

PAGE: I think he won a lot of new fans.

MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, yes, he did.

PAGE: Because most people in the country don’t know Kasich. I come from Ohio originally. I met him in Washington and I’ve been following him over the years.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: He’s done a very good job --

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Do you think he’s going to get the Democrat -- the Republican nomination?

PAGE: I think he’s going to get the V.P. nomination?

MCLAUGHLIN: You do?

PAGE: He set himself up beautifully.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: There are two campaigns here. One is who’s going to be outlier candidate? Right now, it’s Trump. The other is, who’s going to be the guy at the end to take on Trump? Everybody thinks it’s going to be Bush. He’s got the money to do it. But Kasich rose in that category.

CLIFT: Well --

BUCHANAN: And he’s a candidate to be a finalist to go against Trump.

CLIFT: And he did with a velvet knife --

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Trump loved it.

CLIFT: He did with a velvet knife, because he said that Trump has struck a nerve in the country and we ought to be paying attention to it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: The Terror Debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will make no apologies ever to protecting the lives and the safety of the American people. We have to give more tools to our folks to be able to that, not fewer, and then trust those people and oversee them to do it the right way as president. That is exactly what I’ll do.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans.

CHRISTIE: That’s a completely ridiculous answer. "I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people." How are you supposed to know, Megyn?

PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment!

CHRISTIE: What are you supposed to -- how are you supposed to --

PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment!

CHRISTIE: No, I’ll tell you how you do it.

PAUL: Get a warrant!

CHRISTIE: So you go --

PAUL: Get a judge to sign a warrant!

CHRISTIE: When you -- you know, Senator --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is Chris Christie correct about Rand Paul’s stance on NSA surveillance?

I ask you, Tom.

ROGAN: Yes, I think he is. I mean, there’s a controversy there with the NSA. But the difficulty when what you’re dealing with now, especially since Edward Snowden, this is a fact, that groups like the Islamic State and their followers have learned to adapt to the mechanisms of surveillance.

So, really, what you have to do is to have a capacity on the part of the NSA to be able to gather data portfolio, which is not personal information, and then when someone goes to a judge and says, you know, the FBI says, can we monitor this person more intrusively, then you do it that way.

But I think Rand Paul is trying to appeal to a certain constituency in the Republican, which I think they should be in the Republican Party. It’s good to have a debate.

PAGE: Well, this is actually not a partisan issue. It shouldn’t be. I mean, this goes back to the founding of the republic, the argument over safety versus security, the idea of -- I’m sorry, freedom versus security. What was it Ben Franklin said about those --

ROGAN: Those who are willing to give up essential liberty --

BUCHANAN: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: Don’t deserve to have either one, exactly.

MCLAUGHLIN: What’s he saying?

ROGAN: Those who are willing to give up essential liberty deserve neither security or liberty, or something to that --

CLIFT: Rand Paul --

PAGE: That’s why -- and this is -- let me give a quick point. This is a debate that goes on -- and we shouldn’t have absolute positions, one side or the other. I think that, you know, you’re gathering meta information about people can be a benign activity. But it’s one that frightens a lot of folks and I think Rand Paul raises a very good point.

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: OK.

CLIFT: But Rand Paul’s initial appeal was that he spoke to younger people who didn’t want big brother watching them. But the Republican Party has gotten so hawkish that his positions are kind of out of step with the primary now.

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Hold on. More Christie-Paul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Listen, Senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that. When you’re responsible for protecting the lives of the American people, then what you need to do is to make sure --

PAUL: Here’s the problem --

CHRISTIE: -- is to make sure that you use the system the way it’s supposed to work.

PAUL: Here’s the problem, Governor. Here’s the problem, Governor. You fundamentally misunderstand the Bill of Rights. Every time you did a case, you got a warrant from a judge. I’m talking about searches without warrants --

CHRISTIE: There is no --

PAUL: -- indiscriminately of all Americans’ records, and that’s what I fought to end.

I don’t trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Who do you trust more on counterterrorism, Rand Paul or Chris Christie?

Eleanor Clift?

CLIFT: Well, you didn’t play the rest of that bite, which is when Christie comes back and says, hugs I remember are the family members of the people who died on 9/11.

I think Christie won that exchange.

BUCHANAN: I think, John, both of them did. Christie is appealing to the security segment, and that’s a majority. But -- however, Rand Paul, those guys, or the libertarians to whom this is a vitally important issue, this Fourth Amendment. And I think he was very outspoken and tough in defending that part of the party. So, I think they both appealed to their bases and they both did well.

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: And it was a substantive debate.

BUCHANAN: Sure. It’s a good hot exchange, and we’re playing it.-

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: I think Chris Christie will come out better, though, with more Republican voters from that, because again, with the security issue moving up the ladder, he will seem to take it again.

I think Eleanor is right that the party is more in Christie’s pocket than it is in terms of --

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Misogyny.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS MODERATOR: You called women you don't like fat pig, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account --

TRUMP: Only Rosie O’Donnell.

KELLY: No, it wasn’t.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Your Twitter account --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you.

KELLY: For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell.

TRUMP: Yes, I’m sure it was.

KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?

And how you will answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who is likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the "war on women"?

TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I’ve been challenged by so many people. And I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness, and to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.

This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico, both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody.

And frankly what I say, and oftentimes, it’s fun, it’s kidding, we have a good time. What I say is what I say.

And, honestly, Megyn if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me, but I wouldn’t do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did Trump answer Megyn Kelly?

BUCHANAN: She was very much a participant then in the debate. She’s catching the devil on tweets and everything for going after Trump that way, that it was unfair. And he’s getting benefit from it, but he’s also getting hostility from it, because it is, in a word, they claim misogynistic.

CLIFT: You call -- you call her being a participant. That was a journalist --

PAGE: Right.

CLIFT: -- doing a follow-up question, not letting him get away with say, oh, that was just Rosie O’Donnell. She’s saying, no, many other instances.

And maybe she’s getting beat up on Twitter by some people. But trust me, that makes her -- that makes her a heroine on women.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Eleanor, you’re defending FOX News here. This is outstanding.

(LAUGHTER)

CLIFT: I think --

BUCHANAN: Clarence, do you want to defend --

PAGE: I will defend FOX News, too, when FOX News practices good journalism.

CLIFT: That’s right.

PAGE: Which occasionally they do.

BUCHANAN: Did they that to anybody else in that debate? Anybody else in that debate --

PAGE: Well, they should, because you’re supposed to be held --

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: Let him in. Let Clarence in.

PAGE: And you know as a former candidate, you’re supposed to be called into account for what you said. And it’s not the first time that Trump has been called into account for this. And he could have just said simply that if I offended anybody, I’m sorry. But no, that’s not Donald Trump’s way.

CLIFT: Instead, he threatened her.

PAGE: Right.

CLIFT: He threatened her. He hinted --

(CROSSTALK)

CLIFT: He hinted there could be a reprisal against her because she wasn’t treating her nice.

BUCHANAN: Look, I think basically, what people are going to come away from that is part of the establishment, FOX News joined them, and they’re all together and they’re trying to bring The Donald down.

PAGE: That’s the conspiracy theory.

BUCHANAN: And it will solidify --

PAGE: Yes, that’s the conspiracy approach.

BUCHANAN: No, it’s not conspiracy.

PAGE: That’s some malarkey you have.

BUCHANAN: It’s contagion.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: That’s our job as journalists. The Fourth Estate is supposed to hold the other estates accountable and vice versa. That’s all it was.

BUCHANAN: Have we seen enough of The Donald in this program?

PAGE: Of course not. We must have all Donald all the time, John.

BUCHANAN: We’re talking about him in the second day.

PAGE: That’s right.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGAN: There were ten candidates on the stage, the moderators have to shake up.

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: What happens to the bytes -- what happens to the bytes on Donald Trump?

ROGAN: You see, he’s proud of what he says --

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: We just lost the byte. Where was that byte?

ROGAN: Do we want him holding the nuclear trigger?

CLIFT: Donald Trump was the draw in that debate. They got an audience of 24 million people.

PAGE: There you go.

CLIFT: It was great entertainment.

ROGAN: My housemates, who don’t like politics, loved it and they wanted to see more Trump.

BUCHANAN: Who did they want to see?

MCLAUGHLIN: If they can find that byte on Donald Trump in there before we leave. We had a producer show on a matter of about 12 hours because the debate was last night.

Issue Four: Social Security, Medicare, Entitlement Reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if Congress wants to mess with the retirement program, why don’t we let them start by changing their retirement program and not have one instead of talking about getting rid of Social Security and Medicare that was robbed of $700 billion to pay for Obamacare?

CHRISTIE: We can’t fix the problem just by ending Congress’ retirement. That’s worth about this much. We need to go at the fundamental problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Will America’s entitlement systems survive with reforms of the type mentioned by Mike Huckabee?

BUCHANAN: Mike didn’t have the reform -- I mean, he just said get rid of congressional thing, that’s fine.

Christie showed some political courage in coming out and saying that basically we’re going to, A, move the retirement age one month every year for the next 25 years. That would certainly help save Social Security. But is it politically the wise thing to do?

CLIFT: No -- Christie won that exchange but I’m not sure his entitlement reform as a proposal going forward is good politics.

PAGE: Although the polling shows out of all of the bad solutions, and they’re all distasteful to somebody. This is the best way to go, or I should say the most popular way to go, just like raising the retirement --

BUCHANAN: I think this is Walter Mondale, "I will raise taxes", at the 1984 Democratic --

PAGE: Mondale’s mistake was being too candid.

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: You’re going to raise taxes, but don’t brag about it.

ROGAN: You can see with the Republican candidates this cycle, they are trying to focus more on broadening the base. But certainly as a millennial, that kind of comment appeals to me because I know that if I get to the age of some of the panelists here, much to expect --

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: Don’t knock Buchanan that way.

BUCHANAN: But you’re not the Republican base. I am -- McLaughlin is. McLaughlin --

ROGAN: The Republican base needs to expand.

BUCHANAN: Listen, do you want to take away McLaughlin, cut McLaughlin’s Social Security?

ROGAN: No, that’s what we talk about. Yes, I do --

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: The Social Security base is very broad.

CLIFT: That debate did nothing to expand the Republican base on any issue. On women’s issues, on immigration --

BUCHANAN: What about Kasich?

CLIFT: -- zero.

Kasich was good – he’s one of 10.

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: We’re out of control here now.

Which of the 10 Republican contenders lost ground in the debate?

BUCHANAN: I think -- I disagree. I think Scott Walker did because I think he’s sort of the -- he’s a real candidate to run in the opposite Trump, you know, bracket and I don’t think he did -- I can’t -- it’s almost impossible to remember anything he said.

CLIFT: If you’re watching Midwestern governors and you have to choose between Kasich and Walker, Kasich wins. I would agree.

MCLAUGHLIN: Paul is a libertarian.

CLIFT: Walker is a narrow-minded conservative.

(LAUGHTER)

CLIFT: Kasich is able to think more broadly.

ROGAN: He’s very popular.

MCLAUGHLIN: Who?

ROGAN: Scott Walker is very popular. I think he just had to expand that --

PAGE: And doing well in Iowa.

ROGAN: But, look, I also think, going back to what Eleanor said about the political benefit of talking about entitlement reform, I actually tend to think Republicans have a big advantage going up to the general election if they can articulate, look, if we’re in favor of things like Uber, which Hillary Clinton is against. We’re in favor of the entitlement reform so that young people have it, which Hillary Clinton seems to be against.

CLIFT: I don’t think Hillary Clinton is against Uber.

ROGAN: Well, she doesn’t want to reform it. So, you could be the candidate of the people of the future and she --

(CROSSTALK)

ROGAN: That is a debate and also, look at Obamacare, young premiums.

PAGE: I’ve been saying this for years. Republicans ought to be the party of ideas again, you know, because -- you don’t hear that last night.

BUCHANAN: Sure.

PAGE: You heard all of what they were against, but not what they were in favor oft.

BUCHANAN: Barry Goldwater led the party of ideas and came out for privatizing Social Security. It didn’t work. It didn’t work, Clarence.

PAGE: Well, again, he was too candid, right?

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

PAGE: He was too candid about it. Everybody knows we got to do something with it but you don’t want --

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: Which of the Republican contenders lost ground?

ROGAN: Well, we -- yes, so I think we covered, I think we covered. I think if it someone else beyond Rand Paul for me, I would say --

MCLAUGHLIN: Trump.

ROGAN: No, I think Jindal lost ground in the first debate --

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Huckabee helped himself by the way. I thought he had a good performance. I think he helped himself.

CLIFT: He had a good closing statement. But otherwise, his comments were --

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: All right. What about Carson?

PAGE: Well, Carson --

BUCHANAN: I think Carson, other than the closing statement, which I don’t think he had any other statement.

CLIFT: Well, somebody’s going to be voted off the island to make room for Carly Fiorina in the September debate -- and I think it could be Ben Carson who I think --

BUCHANAN: I think Carson is running in the polls around fifth or sixth, though.

CLIFT: Yes. Well --

PAGE: He’s not at the bottom. But what strikes me --

CLIFT: Maybe it’s Cruz.

PAGE: -- about the debate was that the governors, the governors I thought gave the best answers, but the non-governors or not sitting governors, like Huckabee and Cruz, excited the crowd more and I think the early reviews found them. So, what does it say? You know, if you got practical answers to win election --

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

ROGAN: One thing very quickly how the Republican Party is changing around the 2012 primary debates, that was booing of a gay soldier who asked a question.

BUCHANAN: Yes.

ROGAN: This time, Kasich’s remark got actually applause.

PAGE: That’s right.

ROGAN: And that shows, you know, society is changing.

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, in the states, we’re not (ph).

ROGAN: Yes. But it was also I think a reflection of opinion about, you know, you can be anti-gay marriage, but at the same time have respect for --

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: Who’s going to get the nomination on the basis of what we’ve seen in this debate?

BUCHANAN: You know, nobody’s mentioned Bush.

MCLAUGHLIN: Just give me an answer, quickly.

BUCHANAN: Nobody mentioned Bush, have they, John? And Bush I don’t think had a great night, but he’s still -- he’s still in the running because of all the money he’s got, the name, the party.

MCLAUGHLIN: OK.

CLIFT: Bush was flat, but he still looks like a grownup. You can imagine him as president. He’s still in the game.

I think Rubio and Kasich, those are the three that I’d keep my eye on.

MCLAUGHLIN: He seemed a little nervous. He seemed a little nervous.

PAGE: That’s OK.

ROGAN: I think Rubio will be the nominee, yes.

PAGE: I’m still sticking with Bush as the nominee. I think he’s starting off slow on purpose, just keeping more of a low profile like Romney did early on. But you remember four years ago, John, Herman Cain was on top of the polling about this time and then every single candidate up there on that stage served their week or whatever at the top of the polls.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

PAGE: In the end, it came back to Romney. I think it’s going to happen again.

MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is Kasich.

Issue Five: Is Jeb Bush In Trouble After This Debate?

BUCHANAN: John, I would say this, Jeb Bush is probably still -- everyone considers him the probable champion of the establishment wing of the party in the finals, and maybe the probable nominee.

But I’ll tell you, he’s being pressed by Kasich and after this debate, he’s going to be pressed by Marco Rubio, and there’s a lot of people in the Bush camp who have got to be saying to themselves, look, where’s the oomph? Where’s the fire? Where’s the energy? Why cannot he break loose from the pack?

CLIFT: Right.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that’s very good, but this is the answer of how he looks. He appears out of practice. He relied mainly on communicating his record as governor of Florida. But when he talked about restoring America’s spirits, it sounded like he thinks the country’s problems are psychology, not rooted in reality. What do you think of that?

CLIFT: I mean, I think that that’s a criticism of the fact that he’s trying to show some optimism. There was a lot of negative stuff about the country going to hill in a hand basket on that stage. He’s trying to bring optimism into the case. And I think he was in trouble going into the debate.

But I’ll tell you, on the campaign trail, he talks to the voters, he talks to the press, he’s a very accessible candidate. I think he can still do well, but he’s probably got to win New Hampshire. And then when they get to Florida in March, which is winner-take-all, if -- winner-take-all, probably be a shootout between him and Rubio. I probably shouldn’t use shootout, all of those words. I -- but --

ROGAN: Here’s the thing --

CLIFT: -- a big competition.

ROGAN: I think as well, the Jeb -- at one point in there, he did show some real courage, talking about Common Core education reforms, which are really very unpopular with elements of the Republican base. And he stood firm on that and he articulated --

MCLAUGHLIN: In the beginning he had Common Core defined for him.

PAGE: Well, he defined it himself, which I think was the right to do, because it’s really the words Common Core that have gotten the right fired up. You don’t use at say, let say the state it set it up, which they did and that’s primarily the states and the governors that run it -- it doesn’t sound nearly so objectionable. Same thing with Jeb’s immigration stance, he’s trying to get there in the sensible center, which is hard to do in the primaries. But I think that’s why he may seem to be out of practice.

MCLAUGHLI: Yeah.

PAGE: But I think he’s deliberate keeping a low profile right now.

(CROSSTALK)

CLIFT: Came out of the debate unscathed.

MCLAUGHLIN: Who do you envision to be the Republican Party?

BUCHANAN: If I had to guess now, but I wouldn’t bet a lot on it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes.

BUCHANAN: Probably Bush, but let me say this, somebody --

MCLAUGHLIN: Probably Bush, still?

BUCHANAN: Somebody besides Trump who is really still the huge, large bloc here, we’re talking about -- somebody is going to catch fire and rise up, and the establishment is going to all start moving toward this individual as the non-Trump and the anti-Trump.

ROGAN: Right.

BUCHANAN: Well, maybe not soon, but they got 17 people there. As the 17th person drops out, and the 16th and 15th, they’re all going to start endorsing the non-Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: You heard me in the past predict John Kasich would be the nominee.

ROGAN: You did -- yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: In the past.

ROGAN: Yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: How did Bush compare with Kasich in terms of his success potential as getting the nomination?

PAGE: Well, Bush has name recognition. Kasich doesn’t. He’s got -- so, Kasich starts from way behind --

MCLAUGHLIN: What -- is a name recognition a plus or a minus? Do we really want to have a country that is ruled by, what I’m trying to say is led by, another Bush?

PAGE: People -- well, why not? I mean, you had a country led by Adams a couple of times.

CLIFT: Yes.

PAGE: A bunch of other folks.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: And the Roosevelts, of course. We have. We have.

PAGE: Everybody says we shouldn’t have a legacy and everybody is brand conscious. They know a name and they tend to vote for it and that’s why he’s got an edge. And so does Clinton, Hillary Clinton for the very same reason. So, let the voters decide.

CLIFT: Yes. And compared to a lot of people in the Republican field, you wish to know, you know his daddy.

(LAUGHTER)

CLIFT: There’s a brand --

BUCHANAN: And we know his brother.

CLIFT: There’s a brand consciousness. And I think --

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what is the mood of the country? Is the mood, we awe want to change, we want to try somebody new?

CLIFT: Sure. Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

MCLAUGHLIN: Is that where we are?

CLIFT: Yes.

ROGAN: Let’s see what happens with Rubio in the coming days and Fiorina, because if they go up significantly, that suggests Republican voters are ready to shake it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Rubio, you know, he’s a very successful lawyer and he’s of Cuban extraction.

CLIFT: Rubio has --

MCLAUGHLIN: And he works well with the Hispanics, a big vote.

CLIFT: Well --

MCLAUGHLIN: What about Rubio?

CLIFT: He had one of the best --

MCLAUGHLIN: You used to be a big fan of Rubio.

BUCHANAN: Yes, but listen, let me tell you -- look, Jeb Bush is beating Rubio 2-1 in Florida, but Trump is beating them both right now. Florida will elect -- it’s going to eliminate a lot of dead (ph) down there in Florida.

(CROSSTALK)

CLIFT: I think Trump may not be on the ballot by March.

But Rubio had the best sound byte because he’s the youngest person on the stage, and he basically said, look, if this is a competition among resumes and experience, Hillary Clinton will be the next president. It’s about something else.

And he has the capability to fire up the country.

MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time. Bye-bye!

END