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Analysts: Trump struggles a bit in Republican debate, others gain

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks as from

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks as from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker listen during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. Photo Credit: AP

CLEVELAND -- Donald Trump might have won the headlines at the first Republican presidential debate, but his campaign may have taken a hit.

Trump, the GOP front-runner, battled with Fox News moderators and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and delivered some of the best one-liners, analysts said Friday, the day after the debate here. But he also struggled to explain why his business has filed for bankruptcy multiple times and generated boos when he wouldn't promise not to run as an independent should he not get the Republican nomination.

Some candidates' stock may have gone up. Ohio Gov. John Kasich won many favorable reviews, as did Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attracted attention, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were cautious and may have slipped a step, analysts said.

In the end, while the first debate was widely viewed as entertaining -- it drew the highest TV ratings ever for a debate -- it is unclear if it shook up the race.

"Something may have changed, but I didn't see anything dramatic," said University of Akron political scientist John Green. "Maybe we'll see some of the less-known candidates pick up some points in the polls because they got a huge amount of exposure last night."

Trump had to answer questions about using derogatory language about women, switching his position to anti-abortion and claiming the Mexican government encourages drug dealers to cross into the United States.

Influential GOP consultant Frank Luntz declared that Trump imploded. "I saw the destruction of a presidential campaign in two hours," Luntz said on "CBS This Morning." "That's not the language, that's not the strategy that . . . [Republican voters] want to hear."

Others weren't so harsh, but said Trump didn't help himself.

"If he was looking to expand his reach, he probably didn't do that," said Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff. "Trump was rough around the edges, even for himself. . . . He probably built a wall around his support rather than expand it."

Trump said Friday that Fox moderators were targeting him. "The questions asked of me were much, much more difficult and poignant and really unfair than of any other people," Trump said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "But when you're No. 1 in the polls, I guess that happens."

Kasich "showed the potential to emerge as one of the serious candidates," Miringoff said, noting the Ohio governor showed appropriate conservative colors while giving thoughtful, more moderate answers on Medicaid and gay rights.

Rubio talked of his Cuban immigrant parents but also cast himself as the candidate who could appeal to younger voters, analysts said.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) likely neither moved up or down, analysts said. Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, stood out in the earlier debate among seven second-tier candidates.

Bush had to play defense about his brother's record as president, analysts said, while Walker committed no gaffes but didn't stand out. "Walker and Bush were not overshadowed by Trump," Green said. "But they received enormous competition from others."


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