October 14th, 2015

Second Republican presidential primary debate analysis


Have your students read the following article and watch some of the highlights from the debate. Then discuss what tactics work using the discussion questions. Also, check out Extra’s story on the first Democratic presidential debate.  

About 23 million Americans tuned in to the second Republican primary debate held on September 16 to hear from the field of 11 presidential candidates, not including four candidates who debated earlier in the day.

Candidates vied for time in the spotlight against Donald Trump who is getting the most media attention and is leading polls. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker referred to Trump’s reality TV show, The Apprentice, and President Obama when he said, “We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now.”

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush pointed out how Trump had invited former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to his wedding. Trump responded, “Jeb, I was a businessman. I got along with Clinton. I got along with everybody.”

Carly Fiorina, the only female candidate in the Republican primary, addressed Trump’s previous public remarks making fun of her looks. “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” she said, which was met by enthusiastic applause from the crowd. Fiorina defended her record as former CEO of Hewlett-Packard after Trump criticized her poor performance in business.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pointed out how the American people are not interested in hearing about “the history of Donald and Carly’s” careers and would rather hear the candidates discuss the issues.

Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida, discussed foreign policy and stated what he would do in the role of Commander-in-Chief. “We’re not going to authorize use of force if you’re not put in a position where they can win,” he said.

The next Republican debate will be held on October 28, and Democrats will debate on November 14.

Discussion questions:

  1. How would you describe the tone of the debate?
  2. Why might it be difficult to get a sense of where the candidates stand on the issues during a debate?
  3. Do you think hearing candidates’ debate each other makes a difference in the voter’s mind?
  4. What do you think about candidates who use personal attacks in a debate? Is it smart political strategy? Explain.
  5. Who do you think will win the Republican primary? Why?

More activities:

Hear from this veteran PBS NewsHour debate moderator for a look at what it’s like on the inside of a presidential debate.

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