POLL: Who do you think won the CNN GOP debate?

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Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Fifteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the second set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — CNN hosted the second Republican presidential debate Wednesday night at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

Who do you think won the debate?


WASHINGTON — The day after a marathon three-hour meeting of 11 top tier candidates, here’s CNN’s take on the winners and losers of Wednesday’s Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.


Carly Fiorina

Fiorina insisted in the lead-up to the GOP debate that she belonged on the debate stage with the top-tier White House hopefuls.

She proved as much Wednesday night.

For the second debate in a row, Fiorina was once again the breakout star of the night, taking on Republican front-runner Donald Trump with finesse and capturing the crowd with polished, zinging answers and an impassioned charge against abortion.

Fiorina earned perhaps the biggest applause of the night as she skewered Planned Parenthood.

“This is about the character of our nation and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us,” Fiorina said to raucous applause in what was her biggest moment of the night, one that will appeal to the socially conservative base of the party.

Fiorina dodged an early opportunity to hit Trump but didn’t make that mistake again when she was asked to address the businessman’s recent comments about her appearance to Rolling Stone, in which he suggested her face would make her unelectable.

“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” she said, once again to overwhelming applause.

New York journalist and CNN contributor Errol Louis said after the debate that Fiorina was “the clearest winner.”

“(She) successfully challenged Trump — criticizing his wisecracks about her personal appearance and challenging his credentials as a global businessman by deftly ticking off hotspots around the world and suggesting ways she would tackle them,” he wrote in a CNN op-ed.

Marco Rubio

Rubio proved Wednesday night why so many GOP elites have long considered him a top contender for the Republican nomination: He can weave his strong handle of policy with a compelling personal narrative.

Rubio took on Trump differently than Fiorina or Bush, dispatching the front-runner without attacking him directly, instead steering the debate toward his strengths.

When Trump pointed out Rubio’s voting absences in the Senate, Rubio refused to retort with an attack of his own.

“You’re right, I have missed some votes, and I’ll tell you why, Mr. Trump. Because in my years in the Senate, I’ve figured out very quickly that the political establishment in Washington, D.C. in both political parties is completely out of touch with the lives of our people,” Rubio said. “That’s why I’m missing votes. Because I am leaving the Senate, I’m not running for re-election, and I’m running for president because I know this: unless we have the right president, we cannot make America fulfill its potential, but with the right person in office, the 21st century can be the greatest era that our nation has ever known.”

Jeb Bush

Bush stood out with several key moments during the debate that reassured his supporters after recently dipping in the polls and grappling with how to handle Trump’s staying power in the race.

Bush appeared to come out of the shell of the tortoise he has so heartily embraced as his symbol to give voters a taste of the passion he has struggled to showcase.

“You know what? As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe,” Bush told Trump to one of his strongest applause moments of the night. “You remember the fire fighter with his arms around it? He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism, and he did keep us safe.”

And he also successfully tackled Trump over the billionaire’s suggestion that Bush’s Mexican-American wife was the reason for his support for comprehensive immigration reform.

“To subject my wife into the middle of a raucous political conversation was completely inappropriate, and I hope you apologize for that, Donald,” Bush said. “Why don’t you apologize to her right now.” Trump declined.

With expectations low, Bush’s several stand-out moments and overall improvement over his performance in the first debate sealed his spot as one of the night’s winners.

CNN political commentator Amanda Carpenter said Bush’s references to his family were immediately beneficial for him.

“I think the most interesting subtext with Jeb Bush in this debate is his newfound willingness to defend his family,” said the former Ted Cruz aide. “His best moment of the debate I think is when he came out and reminded everyone that his brother kept America safe. On the same hand, I think that will haunt him in the long term because I think tying himself to his brother’s legacy is bad in the long run.”

On Thursday morning, Carpenter said the former Florida governor should have been more forceful in demanding an apology from Trump for comments that real estate developer had made about Bush’s wife in the past.

“He could have been stronger and I think a lot of women were thinking that,” she said on CNN.

Chris Christie

While Bush and Fiorina milked their standout moments from their tiffs with Trump, the New Jersey governor snagged his by using a key moment to make his opponents look narcissistic and portrayed himself the adult in the room.

“While I’m as entertained as anyone by this personal back-and-forth about the history of Donald and Carly’s career, for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn’t have a job, who can’t fund his child’s education, I’ve got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers, they care about theirs,” Christie said. “Let’s start talking about that on this stage and stop playing — and stop playing the games.”

Earlier in the night, Christie suggested the problem with the debate was “we’re fighting with each other up here” over how to approach defunding Planned Parenthood even though “we agree.”

And that’s when Christie — who’s been accused of being too moderate — gave his best performance yet to prove his conservative credentials.

“She (Hillary Clinton) believes in the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts…in the way that maximizes their value for sale for profit,” Christie said.


Donald Trump

Trump faced a barrage of attacks from a field of contenders clearly more prepared, and eager, to take on the brash billionaire. Those who pulled punches in the last debate — like Scott Walker and Jeb Bush — didn’t hesitate to tackle Trump, eager to regain their faltering standings in the polls.

The result was mixed as Trump had both memorable highlights and cringe-worthy lowlights. But as the front-runner trying to hold on to the lead as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s numbers grow, it’s difficult to see how Trump wasn’t at least partially wounded by Thursday’s performance.

Trump stumbled in responding to Fiorina’s deft answer to his comments about her face, awkwardly calling her “beautiful” after suggesting her looks would keep Americans from voting for her.

Former Bush aide and CNN political commentator Ana Navarro spoke highly of the move.

“I thought it was brilliant, because he surprised us all with his answer,” she said on CNN. “He shut it down.”

And when Bush attacked him for a “lack of judgment” and “lack of understanding about how the world works,” Trump resorted to an oft-used tactic of tying Bush to his brother’s presidency suggesting that “your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama because it was such a disaster … that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected.”

Bush’s quick answer — that his brother kept the country safe — knocked Trump off balance as the crowd roared in approval.

However, Trump hit his high notes when he was on the offensive, delivering some of the standard fare that his supporters likely devoured. He said he never attacked Sen. Rand Paul on his looks though “there’s plenty of subject matter right there” — and he took on both Fiorina and Walker’s records with numbers to back his rhetoric.

And as he faced questions over foreign policy and his flubbed response to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who was one of the debate’s questioners, Trump smartly pivoted to Hewitt, insulating himself from further attacks from his rivals.

Trump managed to escape the main question over his knowledge of various terrorist groups and their leaders by pointing out that Hewitt had recently conceded to a misunderstanding between the two when Hewitt spoke of the Quds Forces, which Trump misheard as “Kurds” — leading to crosstalk between the two, not between Trump and a fellow candidate.

Conservative analyst Mercedes Schlapp said Trump was silent for more than 30 minutes of discussion n serious policy issues.

“There was a point when he was speechless,” she said. “You could tell he was so uncomfortable talking about any of the issues except for immigration.”

John Kasich

There wasn’t much daylight between the Ohio governor’s first and second debate performances.

But Kasich’s second performance lacked the umpf that defined his first appearance on the debate stage when he barely squeaked into the top-tier and impressed political observers just weeks after launching his candidacy.


Rand Paul

Paul continued to throw things at the wall on Wednesday — still nothing appeared to stick.

The libertarian-leaning senator from Kentucky once again went for Trump’s jugular. When he was asked whether he would trust Trump with the nuclear codes, Paul gave a firm answer: absolutely not.

But with each attack, Paul failed to do what candidates must do to break out in a debate: Pivot to his own strengths. Instead he simply pointed out Trump’s weaknesses.

Paul’s strongest moments came when he defended his libertarian point of view on foreign military interventions and drug and criminal justice reform. But while those audiences likely played well to his libertarian base of support, Paul appeared the odd one out as he discussed foreign policy amid a field of foreign policy hawks.

Scott Walker

Walker came out swinging at the start of the debate, clearly eager to take on the front-runner after dipping in the polls in recent weeks off a strategy that largely avoided confronting Trump.

“We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one there right now,” Walker said of Trump in what was clearly a prepared zinger — one that drew an approving nod from Bush.

Walker then took on Trump’s attacks about his tenure as governor and then defended his opposition to the minimum wage, but soon faded from the stage.

He delivered his responses with more zeal in a performance that topped his first debate night, but didn’t come away from the night with any breakout moments that may prove necessary as Walker looks to regain his footing in the race.

Ben Carson

The second Republican debate was all Carson’s for the taking: the retired neurosurgeon’s appearance comes off a recent surge that has rocketed him to the No. 2 spot in the race.

But instead, Carson played it safe, clinging to his calm and measured demeanor, avoiding the food fights unfolding alongside him and injecting his trademark good humor into his responses.

It wasn’t for a lack of opportunities: Carson got several openings to knock Trump, but refused, even when Trump put forward some sketchy scientific backing for his views on vaccines.

A few zingers could have delivered the bump Carson needs to overtake Trump in at least one of the early states where he has been slowly catching up to the billionaire front-runner.

But Carson may get there anyway: his unorthodox appeal on Wednesday shied away from the spotlight-charging moments that often define presidential debates — not unlike his first debate performance.

Mike Huckabee & Ted Cruz

While both delivered solid responses to the questions they received, neither former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee nor Texas Sen. Ted Cruz seized opportunities to stand out on the crowded 11-candidate stage.

They didn’t want to take on Trump and both revealed an unwillingness to engage their fellow candidates on key policy issues.

The result? They faded into the background.

Candidates repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from the Beltway and paint themselves as anti-establishment, said former Obama aide David Axelrod.

“So Washington was a big loser in this debate for sure,” said Axelrod, a CNN senior political commentator.

CNN’s Eugene Scott contributed to this report



  • Thomas Brady Ret USPS/USAF

    The debate was very interesting, but I think it proved D.T. is not ready for the GOP nomination. I loved every response that C.F. made, but in all honesty M.Rubio was the most capable to oversee the protection of the USA. C.F was so impressive that I would have a hard time at the moment picking between the two, what I can say is that I was unimpressed by tthe rest of the crowd for the exception of John Kassich and Senator Graham.. I will not vote for C.C, or R.P.

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    • D. B.

      What People want is a strong confident leader, an outsider, not these same old same old politicians, business as usual in Washington once elected after saying what we want to hear. If there’s any chance for a change in Washington its Trump. Even if that chance is slim its greater than another career politician being elected and representing the boots that they licked to get there and forgetting about us, The people. Trump cares what the people think about him, not the establishment not the GOP, not the elite news media. The Elite news media can’t even admit their great success and ratings, money are a direct correlation to Trump, no ifs and or buts about it Trump is the reason nearly 50 millions viewers watched the last 2 GOP debates.

    • D D

      Let me get this straight, You are backing Hillary and you think the republicans are a laughing stock.? You know what they say. There is a sucker born every minute.

  • Miguel Rey

    Those who deflected to Hillary or Obama lost. it was supposed to be debate with each other. It was also funny that Carson refused to debate, very weak personality. I know fact checkers are having a field day with this group, a lot of out right lies or half truths

  • Jerry McGahan

    All did well but believe Donald won. He proved he can hold his own against ten others all trying to take him down.

  • Michael Rodriquez

    TRUMP WON – entire Q&A was fixed to trip up or embarrass Trump, not to provide audience with in depth issue based debate perspectives

  • Sandy Y

    Carly Fiorana won this debate, however I have been doing considerable research on all candidates outside of news media coverage and in my opinion Ben Carson is best suited for republican nomination. He has an advantage in that he can view situations from various perspectives and makes an educated decision on how best to proceed. He isn’t easily influenced by others (pressured) and isn’t going to use brute force unless necessary.

    • wesseid

      Ben Carson can’t even figure out where he stands on the 2nd Amendment. He was talking about banning semi-auto firearms a year ago. If a candidate can’t even get that right, then he’s probably wrong on many other things related to rights and freedoms.

  • Joe

    Trump won this debate hands down. He made the rest of the field look like a bunch of hand puppets, which is exactly what they are. Literally every one of them bought and paid for stooges. He may be brash and he may be crude but he’s a smart businessman (sorry Carly), he doesn’t support birthright citizenship (like Senor Jeb), and he isn’t a career politician (i.e. all the rest).

    People like Trump because he’s authentic. He speaks his mind when he answers the question. All the rest skirt around every tough question like they’re slow dancing with a rattlesnake. I’m sick of Ted Cruz’s tilted concerned eyebrows and canned speeches for every question. Jeb couldn’t say with a straight face whether he supported Kim Davis or not. “Well she should uphold the law but we should also accommodate her beliefs but I guess I don’t know”. Thanks for clearing that up el Jefe.

    I for one hope Trump wins the GOP nomination. He deserves it and he’s the only GOP candidate with any cojones left. The rest of the clown car can go back to screwing up our government with idiotic shutdowns over planned parenthood.

    • wesseid

      Rand Paul has cojones and filibustered to get the NSA to stop unconstitutionally spying on you and to get Eric Holder to finally say he won’t drone bomb you. Rand Paul’s record is the most small government and most constitutional.

    • Richard Groom

      Joe, if you had one ounce of God in you, you would love an honest hard working, courageous man like Ted Cruz, you know, we all played the gambler in giving a chance to a lying muslim sympathizer, look where that got us! Although I believe their are a few candidates that MAY do a honest job, I for one am not willing to gamble anymore sir, we dont have that kind of time!

  • Ronald Jackson

    Donald Trump is by far the powerhouse for president. The other folks are nice people but I am sick of nice people in politicians. They might have nice records but Trump has the guts to fight that the others can’t do. We don’t need another politician who thinks he can change the country. It is either Trump or I will not even bother to vote.

    • wesseid

      Trump will probably fight for things like Obamacare and bailouts and letting government take your property and give it to a corporation through eminent domain. Trump has been for all of those things. Trump basically gets on stage and says he’s the best and offers few actual solutions to problems.

  • Rose Sandoval

    i believe Marco Rubio would be the best candidate for president. He is very intelligent, has a lot of common sense, and knows the problems we have to fix in the United States. We don’t need an obnoxious, egotistical Nut like Donsld Trump and I wouldn’t vote for him!!!

  • Chia Yossarian

    Hillary Clinton was the winner here. Noone on the podium showed any qualifications on being a candidate for Presidency. All pathetic laughing stock.

  • Patti

    Shameful gang warfare launched against Trump.
    That behavior is what has been plaguing the RNC. CNN was no better. Trump STILL WINS.


    This country is not ready for a woman president; especially one who not once cracked a smile in THREE HOURS. She is so hung up on Hewlett Packard she thinks she has to be stiff and hardened at all times. We need a president who can relate to “Joe and Jane America” because THEY are who made this country great! Then? Along came good old Mister Hope and Change and we went further into the toilet! NO ‘CARLY’ and PLEASE NO ‘Hillary’! EVER!

  • RepWoman

    How could people possibly think Trump won last night? Just because he talked the most? He barely said anything of substance.

  • Laurel Bonie

    Format was poor, moderators lost control repeatedly. Half of the debate was about bashing, or trying to bash Trump. I wanted to hear the candidate’s positions on the issues, not what “The Donald” said about this or that. The network appeared amateurish and out of their league.

  • D D

    Im not sure whats worse, The lifelong politicians or the media pundits that do this counrty a disfavor. What a joke! The first hour was dedicated to creating fireworks asking stupid and irrelevant questions about TRUMP. Who cares. I wants to know what your fgoing to do about fixing our issues and instead we received a watercooler conversation designed to create friction and get ratings. We all need to realise that its not just the career politicians that are the problem but the pundit media that ignores the journalistic pledge and uses their position to push their ideas. The more I hear a candidate is not fit to run this country by one of you pundits/politicians, the more I will vote for that person. My 2016 voting strategy, vote in all outsiders and vote out all incumbents. We already know what we will get if we elect a politician of any party. We need a disruptor! The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing expecting different results. Wake up America!

  • Tata

    Trump WON THE debate!!He is my next President and he is the one can resolved all the messed that BARACK OBAMA GAVE TO OUR COUNTRY!!

  • misscandy

    Fiorina – is a talking head, Bush – is a mama’s boy, Carson – is an elder statesman, Trump – is a bulldog. This country needs a bulldog. One thing about Trump he doesn’t discriminate he goes after everybody. He is in your face, kick butt and take names kind of guy, I can see how at the end of the debate the candidates avoided using his name…Good tactic on their part but I saw right through it. I am sure The Donald did too. It doesn’t matter who won the debate. It was a debacle.

    • wesseid

      Yeah, Trump will kick butt and take names, and also use government to take your property and give it to a big corporation through eminent domain like he has done in the past. Other than stopping illegal aliens, Trump has few good ideas. He even liked Obamacare and bailouts.

  • Ginalyn

    I don’t see how anyone could think Carly Fiorina won. She just seemed weak to me and she said she would not speak to Putin and if you want to run in a corner and not speak to someone that is not good especially in the world we live in today. We need strong leaders that can talk and negotiate and make sound correct decisions. She is annoying too. I don’t get it. Of course Donald Trump is ready for the White House. He is a clear winner and anyone who does not think so are envious of his accomplishment imo and I do believe he is destined for the White House. It will be done. Even the moderator went after him. I am glad Donald Trump EXPOSED the media for their politics and the political establishment for the money they take for the good of their own pocket instead of the American people. Anyone else that did that took bribes of millions of dollars at their job would be fired and prosecuted.

    • Kess

      The remainder are crying because no one will love their favorite (insert name here) RINO liberal, and therefor they may actually see some rea change instead of empty promises and more of the same (which they obviously crave).

  • D. Usher

    TaTa–If he is YOUR next president as you said, thank you, so please take him home with you, He knows nothing of substance but how to try to be clever. He knows nothing of foreign policy. Knows nothing about immigration. Said Minnesota was 2.2. million in the red when they have a budget of 2.2. And it goes over being balanced and has a surplus. Know nothing about autism and vaccines or any other medical issues. He’s a buffoon. Bush on Bush and 9/11 made him look like a fool. And he said by next year he’ll know all about international politics–one year. Doesn’t know a Qud from a Curd and dodged the international policy question by talking to the moderator about the mispronunciation. He out and out LIED about having no interest in gaming in Fl. He’ll be out of the race in six months when a TV offer comes along as the new R(D)onald McDonald. . Thank God.

  • Cebes

    Forina no different than the rest of the schmucks. Check her work history. She is a fraud. Her success in business is not really success, just rose to the top because she is a skirt. Its repulsive to hear these people who want to be the most powerful person in the world get up in front of the camera and spew out their memorized garbage. No more frauds in the White House.
    Trump in 2016.

  • Cebes

    Bush standing on his tip toes next to Trump. Spreading out his arms lifting his head up. What is that some BS advice from some political consultant? No wait Schwarzenegger was there. That’s it Arnold gave him the advice. The pose is the same as a bodybuilder takes on stage.That’s like 2nd grade stuff. Shows you he has the wrong handlers, wrong agenda, wrong candidate for President. Stupid Arnold advice, stupid Bush candidate.

  • Cebes

    That bush pose, that stupid pose, standing on tip toes, arms out head up. Why did that look so out of place? Humm, where have I seen that pose before? At a bodybuilding contest. And who was there last night at the debate? Arnold Schwarzenegger. So Bush is getting advice from Arnold, a RINO, a disastrous Governor of California. This bush is a flop and stupid flop and just like Trump has said a front man for the big money boys.


    The debate was a disgrace right from the start let us go after Trump.As a voter it was worse I have ever seen and I am 81 years old. Nothing about how to fix this country or did they give Trump a chance to even talk.Jeb Bush andRand Paul stood up there grinning like two little first graders.Well Jeb I liked George W> Bush but I would not walk across the street to even shake your hand.You may be your own man but take it else were not what we need in the white house. The lady sounded like Christie nothing but a bully.What a shame the American people have to go through these terrible debates..

    • wesseid

      Rand Paul grinned after Trump attacked his looks right after Rand said he’s worried about having a President who attacks people on their looks like a schoolyard bully. Trump makes for good TV, but he has little actual substance.

  • Richard Groom

    This aint about seizing oppourtunities to stand out, its about the downfall of this country, and their is only one man thats stood tall for years now, has not flip flopped, has the conviction of a saint & the courage of a lion and thats Ted Cruz, but nobody wants to give him equal air time, I guess they think it wouldent be fair! After all, who else has actually stood up against obama and his own party without wavering? Its like Ted says, its easy to get on a platform and talk about what your GOING TO DO, but show me when and where you actually did it!

    • wesseid

      Rand Paul has stood up. Not only does he have the most small-government and constitutional voting record in the Senate, but Rand literally stood up to filibuster to stop Obama from unconstitutionally spying on you, and he again literally stood up to filibuster until Eric Holder finally said he wouldn’t drone bomb you. Thank you for standing up, Rand Paul.


    I think maybe we might have had a debate if we could get the two little first graders off the stage.Rand Paul & Jeb Bush..I likied your brother you are your own man alright not what this country needs.CNN you should be ashamed for how you handled the debate.You seem to forget it is not the media who choose who is in the white house next its the American people.I guess you made your plans from watching Fox news with the first debate.All the news people need to sit back and let it play out no one cares what your opinion is report the news.You have the chance to vote just like everyone else.

  • Mary May

    The CNN debate was an embarrassment particularly for those asking the questions. They did not care about letting views hear thought provoking ideas from the candidates, their real concern was show boating a verbal fighting match. Does anyone in the media know what a real debate on ideas is? Apparently not as this second debate was no more than a rigged sparring match. The commentators deserve an F- for then inability to deal with any comment of national substance.

  • Kess

    TRUMP, because after a WHOLE HOUR of airtime used by the moderators and candidates to attack trump, they couldn’t dent ol Teflon Don…

    CNN: FAIL.

  • Kess

    Its funny, Faux News is alot like CNN or MSNBC, same vitriol, other side of the coin.

    Trump got attacked for an HOUR… by everyone there… even Breitbart reported the GOP filled out the audience with anti-trump types. You RINO’s are attacking trump the same way you did with Reagan, it was the people, the VOTERS though that he struck a chord with, not the establishment puppets.

    Good luck with your liberal youre rooting for, Were voting for someone who isnt beholden to the pimps, donors and protitutes in washington.

  • D. B.

    People want a strong confident leader, an outsider, not these same old same old politicians, business as usual in Washington once elected after saying what we want to hear. If there’s any chance for a change in Washington its Trump. Even if that chance is slim its greater than another career politician being elected and representing the boots that they licked to get there and forgetting about us, The people. Trump cares what the people think about him, not the establishment not the GOP, not the elite news media. The Elite news media can’t even admit their great success and ratings, money are a direct correlation to Trump, no ifs and or buts about it Trump is the reason nearly 50 millions viewers watched the last 2 GOP debates.

  • wesseid

    “Paul appeared the odd one out as he discussed foreign policy amid a field of foreign policy hawks.”
    Yep, Rand Paul, the most small-government person in the field, and the only candidate who actually cares about The Constitution.

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