The B Team debate

I agree with John’s assessment of the preliminary event in today’s presidential debate festivities. Carly Fiorina and Bobby Jindal were excellent and deserve immediate promotion to the A Team (stay tuned for a discussion of whom they should replace).

George Pataki also debated well enough to deserve a promotion but, as John says, what would be the point.

Rick Perry did pretty well but still stumbles at times. If he had debated at this level in 2007, he might have made a race of it. This time around, I’m not sure this level will get him into contention.

Rick Santorum is the one candidate as to whom I seem to disagree with John and the readers who participated at Power Line Live. I thought he was as good as Fiorini and Jindal.

Santorum’s “American was worth the wait” line, which he attributes to his immigrant father, was an outstanding answer on immigration. His argument that Supreme Court rulings don’t end constitutional debate — citing Dred Scott and President Lincoln — was spot on (though probably too optimistic in the context of gay marriage).

Santorum’s debating skill helped spark his astonishing move up the ranks in 2011-12. Those skills are still evident. However, I doubt they will work the same magic this time. The field is too crowded and, sadly, Mike Huckabee will probably outdo him with social conservatives.

In the final analysis, Fiorina’s impressive performance was probably the most consequential one of the debate for two reasons. First, as basically an unknown, she likely has the most room for growth. Second, though no one from today’s B Team has much of a shot at the presidential nomination, the vice presidential nomination is another matter.

I’ve thought from the beginning that, as a practical matter, Fiorina is running for vice president. Strong debating skill is absolutely required of a VP candidate these days. By demonstrating that skill in abundance today, Fiorina advanced her prospects for grabbing the only slot on the GOP ticket that likely is available to her.