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Journal Editorial Report

Breakout third debate performances could shake up GOP race

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," November 1, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, FOX NEWS HOST:  This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the Republican presidential hopefuls square off in their third debate of the2016 campaign.  Will some breakout performances lead to a shake up in the GOP field, or can the so-called outsiders hang on to their front runner status?

Plus, Paul Ryan takes the speaker's gavel, promising to fix a broken House.  
So can he unite a fractured GOP Congress and repair its damaged reputation?

Find out after these headlines.

(FOX NEWS REPORT)

GIGOT:  Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report."  I'm Paul Gigot.

The Republican presidential candidates squared off this week in their third debate of the 2016 campaign.  While Donald Trump and Ben Carson took center stage in Boulder, Colorado, Wednesday, some of the over candidates managed to steal the spotlight.  

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  She spent over a week telling the families of victims and the American people that it was because of a video.  Yet, the main stream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton's campaign.  It was the week she was exposed as a liar.   

(CHEERING)

(APPLAUSE)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Wait a second.  Wait a second.  We have $19 trillion in debt, people out of work, ISIS and al Qaeda attacking us, and we are talking about fantasy football?  Can we stop?

(CHEERING)

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You look at the question -- Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain?  Ben Carson, can you do math?  John Kasich, will insult two people over here?  Marco Rubio, why don't you resign?  Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?  How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?

(CHEERING)  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady; and assistant page editor, James Freeman; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.  

Kim, this debate showed that the Republican contest is volatile.  Nobody will march from front to back as the front-runner.  There are a lot of people who potentially could break through and get the nomination.  Who do you think broke through this week?  

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST:  Look, we are past the introduction stage at this point.  Voters are looking for more substance.  You did see some of the Republican insiders -- remember, this is supposed to be about outsiders, but instead, the people who shone were Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and --  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Experienced politicians.  

STRASSEL:  Yes.  People who have done this for a while.  The reason they did is because they probably have a pretty good understanding of what voters want and need.  They want someone who will be an effective advocate for them, someone who will go after Democrats.  And that's what these people were presenting up on stage.  

GIGOT:  So, Mary, who did you think stood out in your mind?  

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST:  Obviously, Marco Rubio did very well.  I don't think he presented a lot of substance.  I think Chris Christie was the one who actually talked more specifically about Social Security and attacking the problems of Social Security.  In terms of substance, he was the best.  And of course --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Is he breaking through that it impresses people or is it his manner, the sort of, look, you want somebody to take on Hillary Clinton, look at me, I'm the guy who can do it.  

(LAUGHTER)

O'GRADY:  He's a former prosecutor.  He can think on his feet.  He's articulate.  I think he'll have a problem because of the fact that he's from a blue state and he hasn't really been conservative on a lot of issues.  One of the things that could get him in trouble from the other night was his comments on solar power.  He said, you know, this is something that's a private-sector initiative.  In fact, the state of New Jersey has been subsidizing solar power.  That will catch up with him, I'm afraid.  

GIGOT:  Conservatives don't necessarily trust him.  He's a good performer.  

What about Marco Rubio, Dan?  

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR:  Let's talk for a second about Hillary Clinton.  We watched her in her debate a year ago or so, and you know what, she was good.  You need a candidate who can stand on a stage and debate Hillary Clinton.  You need somebody who is in the big leagues of politics.  Those three clips we showed of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Chris Christie showed three politicians who can punch it out in different ways, different styles.  But they are all able to talk about the issues on the table in a way they can connect to people listening.  

GIGOT:  Debating well doesn't necessarily mean you will be president.  

HENNINGER:  These aren't debates.  

(LAUGHTER)

They are presentation exercises.  Who can present ideas the easiest, best and most coherently?  They don't really debate with one another.  

GIGOT:  So what impresses you, James, about Marco Rubio?  Why do you think-- universally, people are saying he did well.  Why?  

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR:  I think we have seen before he's articulate and a compelling speaker.  What you saw in this debate was the preparation.  That suggests he can manage at least a small staff and effectively task out ideas.  I assume he's not the one researching each particular issue.  It suggests a very good organization building up behind him.  Really, like a kid's soccer coach, I would give everybody a medal except for Jeb Bush and the CNBC moderators because I thought --

(CROSSTALK)  

GIGOT:  He grades on a curve.  

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  What you saw was an impressive, articulate group often, despite the moderators, trying to talk substance.  

O'GRADY:  I think actually what the guys understand is the viewers come away with a feeling about who the person is more than specifics about any individual policy.  Marco Rubio comes off as a happy warrior.  You know, he made a joke about his book and how it's on sale as a paperback edition.  He made reference to his mother and how he's against anything that harms his mother.  I think that gave people kind of a lightness about him and a positive feeling as opposed to some of the other candidates who are more like skulls.  

GIGOT:  Kim, why is Cruz somebody to watch not just based on the debate performance but going forward?  

STRASSEL:  Watch Ted Cruz, because Ted Cruz has been shrewd in his strategy.  He's deliberately contrasting himself in a subtle way with the Marco Rubio, the happy warrior.  He's trying to channel conservative anger.  He's being very specific in trying to tag evangelical voter, Tea Party voters.  He feels they are up for grabs.  That's why you see him rising in the polls.  You may end up in the end with a race that pits Cruz against more of a Marco Rubio candidate who is more of the kind of big-tent person.  

HENNINGER:  Exactly.  I think what we are seeing is that Marco Rubio and Cruz seem to be the two candidates that have a plan going forward.  They have an idea of who they want to appeal to and how they want to do it.  You can see them headed towards the primaries in a way that will allow those two to rise from the rest of the pack, I think.  

GIGOT:  Still a long way to go, though.  

All right.  When we come back, they are still leading in the polls but how did the so-called outsider candidates fare in this week's debate?  Our panel's thoughts after the break.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-OHIO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  They talk about we are going to have a 10 percent tithe to fund the government and we'll fix everything with waste, fraud and abuse, or we'll just be great?  Folks, we've got to wake up.  We cannot elect somebody that doesn't know how to do the job.  You have got to pick somebody who has experience, somebody with the know-how, the discipline.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Ohio Governor John Kasich Wednesday night taking a shot at the so- called outsiders in the race, including Donald Trump and Ben Carson.  James, that was clearly a thought out, strategic play.  Why do you think Kasich did that, and will it help him?  

FREEMAN:  He's trying to present himself as the conservative reformer who has gotten it done and can do it in the future.  He has a few problems.  One, substantive.  The math can work on a low, flat, tax rate system.  

GIGOT:  Maybe not 10 percent.  But 20 or something like that.  

FREEMAN:  I would say even in the teens.  You look at Cruz and Rand Paul, they basically collect the revenue with essentially value-added tax on business.  

GIGOT:  Right.  

FREEMAN:  The point is it can be done.  This is not an impossible idea to have a low, flat, tax rate system.  The economics are flawed.  More than that, it is a muddled message to the electorate because he's saying I'm the conservative reformer who got it done.  But he lays out his liberal positions, and the voter is left to wonder what they are getting here.  

GIGOT:  The other thing about Kasich's broadside is, it wasn't so much aimed at Carson and Trump but at some ways at the voters, saying, wake up, people!  You're out of it!  Get with it!  That's not necessarily the way to get them.  

O'GRADY:  Both Bush and Kasich are frustrated because they are governors with successful records in office.  They can't understand why no one is coming to them.  But their problem is, in that frustration, they are coming off as angry.  Not only as he went after the voter but he seems really, really angry.  And that's not going to attract voters.  That's his problem.  

GIGOT:  How do you think Trump did, Dan?  

HENNINGER:  I think he held his own.  He didn't do that well.  One of the things Trump said that jumped out at me was the attack on John Kasich when he started saying he's the guy at the end of the table.  

(CROSSTALK)

HENNINGER:  And he goes, "and you can have him."  

(LAUGHER)

Donald Trump is starting to sound like Sonny Corleone --

(LAUGHTER)

-- the character from "The Godfather."  Who is he going to beat up next?

(LAUGHTER)

He's not getting better, and that's the problem.  

GIGOT:  There isn't a lot there.  

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  Yeah, I thought his counter punch on Kasich was brilliant.  He tied him to Lehman Brothers and said, you used to say you were going to be Mr. Nice guy and not attack anyone.  What are you doing now?  

(LAUGHTER)

I thought it was great.  I also think Trump sounded as reasonable as he has.  He talked about opening immigration, more high-tech, high-skill immigrants.  Sounds good.  

GIGOT:  What about Ben Carson, Kim.  This was his first time at center stage in the debate.  More eyes on him.  How did he do?  

STRASSEL:  He was his normal, low-key self.  That's not necessarily bad for him.  A lot of people are attracted to what they view as his common-sense approach.  I think his problem though -- and we are seeing it again and again in debates and we saw it again that night -- is that when faced with serious policy questions, he comes across as a little befuddled sometimes.  That's certainly something that's been noticed by voters, especially as they are paying more attention.  He was asked questions, the answers for which were either he seemed to stumble a little bit or they came out like his answer on price control, not necessarily reassuring to voters.  

GIGOT:  Let's look at an exchange between Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term.  You should be showing up to work.  Literally, the Senate, what is it like a French work week?  Three days where you have to show up?  

(LAUGHTER)

You can campaign.  Or just resign and let someone else take the job.  

RUBIO:  I don't remember you ever complain complaining about John McCain's vote record.  The only reason why you are doing it now is we are running for the same position and someone has convinced you attacking me will help you.  

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO:  Here's the bottom line.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO:  My campaign is about the future of America, not about attacking anyone else on stage.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Mary, that didn't go well for the governor.  And he went with that line.  It was clearly rehearsed.  He wanted to do it.  They even leaked they would attack Rubio, which meant Rubio was prepared for it.  He had just taken down the questioner on the same issue and Jeb still raised the point and gave Rubio the opening.  

O'GRADY:  My problem with the exchange was not that he raised the point but that after Rubio hit back at him, he didn't respond.  That was something similar when he asked Trump to apologize to his wife in a previous debate.  You know, there was no follow up.  I think that makes Jeb look weak.  He doesn't continue the fight and show that he wants to win.  

GIGOT:  Can Jeb Bush revive his campaign?  

HENNINGER:  It will be hard.  A lot of his supporters are hitting the panic button.  There is another debate in two weeks, another debate.  For the life of me, it's hard to understand why, unlike the others, Jeb Bush doesn't commit to memory four set presentations he can't articulate.  He admits he's not the best speaker on stage.  But he has to do a better job of describing where he stands.  

GIGOT:  The French line was good.  

(LAUGHTER)

When we come back, Paul Ryan takes the speaker's gavel and takes on the job of uniting a fractured Republican Congress.  Can he fix the broken house?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Let's be frank, the House is broken.  We're not solving problems.  We're adding to them.  And I am not interested in laying blame.  We are not settling scores.  We are wiping the slate clean.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Newly elected House Speaker, Paul Ryan, Thursday, vowing to change the way business is done in Congress as he takes the reins of a fractured Republican conference.  

So, Dan, what kind of a conservative is Paul Ryan?  

HENNINGER:  Well, I think you would have to say he is a Ronald Reagan conservative, because Paul Ryan got into politics during the Reagan presidency.  As young as he is, he has been in politics a long time.  The sort of sense of hope and optimism, but knowing the policies that can produce that sort of thing under Reagan, which was the tax cut of 1986, Paul Ryan worked on that, he understood it.  Reducing regulations of the economy grow.  Ryan has been through the details.  And I really think he's going to play a role now in the House helping the newer members understand why they got to this point.  

GIGOT:  I see him, Mary, as somebody who has a combination of real firm Philosophical conviction particularly on economics and the size of government.  But also some tactical flexibility.  He realizes that, Congress, you can't get everything you want, particularly with a Democrat in the White House.  

O'GRADY:  This is why he was the best choice to be the House speaker, because he understands the tactical problem, the longer-term strategy.  We want to win, we need more Senators.  We need to get the White House.  And so he tells his team, this is what we need.  And, short term, these are the tactics we have to follow.  That's what the Republicans have been sailing on.  That's what broke apart the Republican Party in the House, was this failure to understand that the tactics for them are much different than the strategy?  

GIGOT:  Kim, can he get enough people behind him, particularly there's a lot of people on the right out there who have a vested -- not so much in Congress but outside -- who have a vested interest in attacking Republicans because it helps them with their ratings or their website.  Can Ryan unite the Republican Party enough here the next 16 months?  

STRASSEL:  He has been very smart about how he's done this so far.  Remember, he set back, he waited back for them to basically ask him, beg him, to come and do this, because everything was such a mess, and he gave it some thought and he did.  He has gone into that speech that he was very much talking about how there's almost a duty for the House to be -- to work again and for people to unite behind him.  So he's exerting a lot of pressure on these Republicans who have caused so much trouble and have not seemed to realize there are limits to what you can get done with the Democratic White House.  And so, I mean, I think he's got a better shot than anyone.  Some of this is going to come out the first couple of weeks, whether or not they can unite around a few things and score some victories.  

GIGOT:  Here's the irony, James.  If the Congress is ineffective, dysfunctional, you know who it empowers?  Not conservatives.  The president of the United States.  

FREEMAN:  Yeah.

GIGOT:  Liberals.  In a way, Republicans, conservatives, really should want Ryan and the House to work, even if you don't get everything you want, because otherwise, the executive is going to run away with the government.  

FREEMAN:  Right.  But they do want some things.  His predecessor obviously on the way out the door enabled the latest Obama spending binge.  But I think a good early test for Ryan, because he can make the case, is to try to get some policy changes in these year-end appropriations bills.  The spending is going to happen.  We have to live with that.  But I think he can work on policy now.  And then basically, all of next year, putting out the message that's going to potentially make Hillary Clinton uncomfortable.  

GIGOT:  Nobody likes the budget deal, Mary, at least on the right.  I can't find a single person who says yeah, I love this.  But maybe it was the best they could do, given the fact they were so divided, Republicans, conservatives, on defense spending.  A lot of people wanted to break the spending caps to spend more on defense.  You give leverage to the Democrats.  

O'GRADY:  Right, and I think that John Boehner, you know, he referred to this as sweeping the barn.  He sort of cleaned up --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  You know what that means.  

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'GRADY:  He cleaned up this mess before he left so that Paul Ryan wouldn't have the burden of those very unpopular decisions.  

GIGOT:  All right.  Thank you, all.  

We have to take one more break.  When we come back, "Hits and Misses" of the week.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  Time now for our "Hits and Misses" of the week -- James?  

FREEMAN:  Paul, this is a miss to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which has now encouraged a judge to start sending out $80 million in checks to people who were allegedly discriminated against in car borrowing.  See if you follow.  Auto loans, the $80 million is going out the door, AND it's going to people that based on their last names and zip codes, the government thinks are minorities.  

GIGOT:  Thinks.

FREEMAN:  If you're not a minority, you're supposed to send that check back.  

(LAUGHTER)

Make sure you do.

GIGOT:  Mary?

O'GRADY:  Paul, this is a hit for Pittsburgh Steelers Cornerback William Gay, who broke NFL rules last week by wearing purple cleats in the Sunday game to show solidarity with domestic violence awareness month.  The NFL fined him, and I don't blame the NFL, because they have to have uniform rules.  Nevertheless, I find it encouraging that professional football player's speaking out on this issue and I applaud him for it.  

GIGOT:  Good.

Dan?

HENNINGER:  A public relations miss to the World Health Organization which caused an uproar this week by saying bacon and other hard meats increase your risk of colorectal cancer.  Well, that includes salami.  Salami comes from southern Italy, which is supposed to have the world's healthiest diet and cuisine.  

GIGOT:  That's the wine, Dan.

HENNINGER:  Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)  

That's for sure.  

(LAUGHTER)

What the Italians, who have done thousands of years of research, could have told the WHO, is eat anything in moderation and you'll be all right.  

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT:  All right.  

And, remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet us at JER on FNC.  

That's it for this week's show.  Thanks to my panel and to all of you for watching.  I'm Paul Gigot.  We hope to see you right here next week.  

END

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