The second Republican debate kicked off with hostile attacks, but as tensions subsided in the course of the three-hour debate, the candidates had the chance to clearly and calmly explain their positions. With the stage no longer dominated by acrimony, the winners and losers of the night emerged.
Carly Fiorina may have been a newcomer to the prime-time debate, but she quickly rose to become a favorite on the stage. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was voted up based on her performance to the No. 1 spot on the Telegraph's online poll following the debate. She was followed by front-runner Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in third. In the polls, however, Fiorina is eighth and Rubio falls into fifth place among the GOP candidates in national averages.
The Washington Post concluded Fiorina won the debate. "Fiorina became a dominant figure in Wednesday night’s marquee event, drawing loud applause for her attacks on Trump, and putting the front-runner on the defensive more than any candidate has so far. At about the halfway mark of the three-hour debate, Fiorina responded to Trump’s attack on her business career by attacking his," the Post declared. "She said that Washington politicians had run up huge amounts of debt, and pointed out that Trump had done so in some of his business ventures in Atlantic City, N.J."
Fortune also praised Fiorina's composure. "Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina was especially engaged with Trump, as many anticipated. Fiorina maintained her cool for the entirety of the debate, even as the rest of the field frequently devolved into squabbling," Fortune wrote.
Vox also hailed Fiorina as the winner: "This is the second debate Fiorina won. She dominated the JV stage in the Fox News debate, forcing CNN to change the rules to ensure she made the main stage in their event. She validated their decision tonight. She had the crispest answers, received the biggest cheers, and proved the only candidate on the stage capable of standing against Trump. She made everyone else on the stage — especially Trump — look unprepared."
As far as losers go, The Atlantic wrote that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did not appear to be a strong contender. "Walker did need a strong performance, and he didn’t get it. He often seemed befuddled, didn’t offer many memorable answers, and—perhaps most damningly—seemed to totally vanish from the stage for long periods of time during the debate. Leaving the debate Wednesday, the Walker campaign will have to look for another moment on which to pin its hopes for a turnaround."
Others such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush got a more lukewarm review. The Dallas Morning News wrote the former front-runner neither won or lost: "He needed to convince the establishment he can take on Trump and conservatives that he is one of them. He may not have done either. But his admission to smoking marijuana in his youth helped humanize him, and he showed an ability to laugh at himself that will wear well through the long slog of debates"
Also on the stage were New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
The 11-candidate line-up was determined by recent national polls. Four of the candidates were relegated to a lower-tier debate Wednesday earlier in the night.
The debate was broadcast by CNN Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.