Krauthammer: Fiorina Had Best Performance, Rubio Second, Christie Third

Columnist and Fox News Contributor Charles Krauthammer said that Carly Fiorina won the second primetime presidential debate, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio in a close second, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in third.

Krauthammer said, “I thought Trump had a C- performance. I thought he didn’t do that well in the first debate either, but that got kind of lost in the shuffle. He was on the receiving end of a few pretty strong [responses] I think. The strongest was the Fiorina one, where he really didn’t have much to say other than a sarcastic you’re gorgeous, or whatever he said. On policy, like in the first debate, he wasn’t up to speed the way the others were. Now — and again, that repeats what happened in the first debate, and yet didn’t hurt him. Whether it’s going to affect him, I don’t know. But it is harder for him, in an arena where there are other people well-versed in the issues than it is when he’s up alone on the stage, he’s a talented performer, and we can handle the flow and the ebb of the conversation because it’s a monologue, and he does extremely well. But I think that’s not forum for him.

Krauthammer put Dr. Ben Carson “in the same range,” and like in the first debate Carson was “rather weak on the issues, but he had this fantastic response at the end, which had endeared him to everyone, and I think just kind of rocketed him up. He didn’t have that moment this time. He had one kind of winning moment when he turned to Trump about the vaccines and said, you’re an okay doctor, which I thought was soft, you know, characteristically soft and clever. But he didn’t shine. Again, this is not his kind of forum.”

Krauthammer gave former Florida Governor Jeb Bush a B-, saying, he “was on sometimes, did rather well, I thought held his own. But, — and as to energy, I mean it wasn’t — he’s not a man who’s really quick. He’s not a man who’s sharp. He’s rather thoughtful. It’s not quite the forum he needs, but he did the better than in the first debate. And, on the issues, I think he was rather strong.”

He also argued Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, “was a bit stronger, a bit more forceful, but I don’t think he changed his fortunes one way or another.”

Krauthammer said that Carly Fiorina got an A- because “these debates hinge on moments, and she had two great moments, the one where she countered the insult from Trump in a way that was short, surprising, and really electric. And then, she had her little riff, when she took on, interestingly, and improbably Iran and Planned Parenthood at the same time, extremely strong, carried it off very well. That was the best, sort of sound byte, that wasn’t a joke, of the evening.” But that she got the minor because “she had a severe demeanor.”

Krauthammer said Ohio Governor John Kasich is “the bleeding heart liberal on the stage. I don’t know how the message would have carried. Slightly weaker on Iran than anyone else, other than Rand Paul, who has a principled, sort of non-interventionist position. Not sure he helped himself. It wasn’t Cleveland. He didn’t have the hometown audience. I give him a C.

Krauthammer added that Rand Paul “did rather well,” but was “on the periphery” and that his points “weren’t the ones that would rally people to him.” Krauthammer further said former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee earned a C, although he wasn’t sure that it was Huckabee’s fault since he didn’t get much time.

Of Chris Christie, Krauthammer stated he “had a good night. Christie, I think he rose above expectations. He showed himself to be controlled, but really strong. He held his own on several issues. He’s able to debate, and he had a bit of humor. He was — I’d give him a B on the night.”

Krauthammer gave Texas Senator Cruz a C+, “the usual strong debating was somehow left out of the debate in many ways. Did not have a signature moment. But I think he positioned himself well, to be in a position to inherit the Trump constituency, if it’s relinquished.”

Krauthammer concluded his grading, “Rubio, I think he came in a close second. I think he came — he was very strong, particularly in the exchange on what you would do with Russia and Syria. The question began with Trump. He had no idea what to say. Rubio came back very stongly and said the issue is not talking with Putin. The issue is showing him strength, and he really slam dunked that question. He doesn’t have the moments, but what he has is a consistently high, strong performance across the board on every issue.”

He also criticized the moderators, by arguing, “It was like WWE, without the entertainment value.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett