Last night’s two-hour verbal sparring match did not produce a clear winner out of the eight Republican presidential candidates on the stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During the fourth GOP session of the war of words, the American people were the winners. American voters, especially those who are undecided, all benefited from hearing what concerns the candidates in real and tangible ways, instead of the school yard fight we have seen recently dominating the sessions.
Comparing this debate to the three previous ones, there was much less in the way of “gotcha!” games and one-upmanship between the candidates. There were some head-to-head verbal shootouts and tense moments, but the issues—namely the economy—dominated the landscape. Serious questions were lobbed at the contenders, who volleyed back to the best of their ability.
Many eyes were on the new and improved Jeb Bush, who went through a political makeover to retool his perceived lackluster political game for president. But even with the overhaul, there were glitches. Bush put a good effort forward, but lacked a smooth delivery on his rehearsed responses.
Billionaire Donald Trump has also upped his game in understanding the stakes at these debates. Last night, Trump went into the discussion a bit more prepared after hiring a team of policy wonks to help him better articulate his position on issues, including the erection of a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Beyond his past statements that Mexico will pay for the wall and that it will have a pretty door, for the first time, Trump made an effort to further detail his plans to fix the immigration problem in this country, citing Israel’s wall in the West Bank as a comparable separation barrier.
The other top GOP presidential contender, retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, invoked urban America in his discussion of the minimum wage. Carson, a supporter of social programs, said during last night’s debate, “One minimum wage does not fit all!” During his explanation, he cited the teen unemployment rate (15.9 percent in October 2015) as an example, though he neglected to address the Black unemployment rate (9.2 percent in October 2015), which is the highest among all race demographics in the nation.
The Presidential election is now less than a year away. A new CNN/ ORC poll shows that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic favorite and Donald Trump and Ben Carson are neck-and-neck in the number 1 and 2 spots, respectively. The next Republican Presidential debate is slated for December 15, 2015, and sources in the Republican National Committee are concerned this debate may become lost in the holiday rush, making last night’s debate a lot weightier until the post-holiday debate in January.
April Ryan is an ESSENCE contributor, White House Correspondent, and Washington Bureau Chief at American Urban Radio Networks.