Biggest winner from the first GOP Debate: Carly Fiorina

Call it what you will–the Happy Hour, The Lesser Rans, The Junior Varsity, The Undercard–the earlier 5pm ET Fox News/Facebook Republican debate featuring those ranked 11-17 out of 5 national polls likely served up the biggest winner of the night; Carly Fiorina. Even in the introduction to the later 9pm ET debate Megyn Kelly said, “I’m sure all of you are glad you won’t have to face Carly Fiorina tonight.”

Reminiscent of the main event heavyweight bout that does not live up to the hype, the primetime event lacked any far and away winner and would have required the judges poll to see who scored the most points. Fiorina, on the other hand, looks to have gotten a clear knockout.

From the start, Fiorina was poised and confident. She followed a halting and seemingly nervous answer by Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a fluid riff on why she was running and how she was best positioned to beat Hillary Clinton. And, she closed that first answer with this quotable (and good) line: “The highest calling of leadership is to challenge the status quo and unlock the potential of others. We need a leader who will lead the resurgence of this great nation and unlock its potential once again.”

That poised and confident answer was a sign of things to come for Fiorina. As people like Perry (still not a good debater), South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (why was he so sad???) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (angry much?) struggled, Fiorina shined. She repeatedly hit on her knowledge of the world and foreign policy and, smartly for this Republican audience, went after Clinton on Benghazi.

What made Fiorina stand out — more than what she said on any particular topic — was that she looked up to the moment. She was prepared and poised. She rarely glanced at notes. She spoke freely and easily.  She had the “it” factor.

Fiorina even landed one of the biggest blows of the night on current frontrunner Donald Trump, who was not on stage but whose presence was palpable:

Fiorina had a tart response when asked about Trump.

She mentioned news reports that Trump had fielded a phone call from Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, before Trump entered the 2016 race, and that Clinton had urged Trump to play a larger role in Republican politics.

“I didn’t get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton?” she said, looking toward others on stage. “Maybe it’s because I didn’t give to the Clinton Foundation or give to his wife’s campaign.”

[The Hill][Washington Post][Reuters]

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