Unless you were living under some virtual (or literal) rock, you should already know that the first Republican debates occurred last night on Fox News. There were actually two: The first one, with the seven “second tier” candidates, aired on Fox News earlier in the evening. The second one, in prime time, featured the top 10 candidates, as determined by their poll ratings. Maybe you watched intently as the two debates were on, or maybe you’re just seeing clips this morning as you scroll through the news and social media instead of working.
The debates were every bit the spectacle you might have expected, and while no candidate seems to have the clearest shot yet of scoring the ultimate goal (and it is still very early in the game), there were quite a few memorable moments.
Here are five things we took away from the first GOP debates:
1. Trump gonna Trump.
Ah, the Donald. He was every bit as delightful and charming as one would expect. Pulling no punches from the very beginning, he mild-manneredly asserted that he would not be able to promise to support the party’s choice and not stage an independent campaign if another individual won the Republican nomination.
“I can totally make the pledge if I’m the nominee,” Trump quipped, despite being booed for his assertion.
He kept up his tone throughout the night, steadfastly refusing to back down or mince words.
When host Megyn Kelly asked about his treatment of women, some of whom he’s referred to as “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals,” Trump interjected, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.”
Kelly then pointed out that many women beyond O’Donnell have complained, asking, “Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?”
“I think the big problem that this country has is being politically correct,” Trump said. “I’ve been challenged by so many people. And I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness, and I’ll be honest with you: This country doesn’t have time, either.
“Oftentimes it’s fun,” he added. “It’s kidding. We have a good time. What I say is what I say.”
Of course Trump’s comments about Mexico and Mexicans came up, but his confidence remained unshakable even when host Chris Wallace asked him what specific evidence he had that the Mexican government was indeed sending criminals over the border.
“Border Patrol. I was at the border last week. Border Patrol people that I deal with, that I talk to, they say this is what’s happening because our leaders are stupid. Our politicians are stupid,” he insisted.
2. Carly Fiorina could be a dark horse.
Of course, it’s still too early in the game to tell, but the former Hewlett-Packard CEO clearly impressed in the earlier Republican debate, showcasing the second-tier candidates. Decidedly the victor of that debate, Fiorina spared no one her sharp wit, taking hits at everyone from Trump to (almost) every Republican’s hated person, Hillary Clinton.
“We need a nominee who is going to throw every punch, not pull punches, and someone who cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring,” she asserted.
Although Fiorina did not earn a prime-time spot to debate Trump and his gang, she certainly stood out to many on social media and to cable commentators.
3. Fight: Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul.
There was definitely no love lost between the New Jersey governor and Kentucky senator last night as they argued about national security, which is a known point of contention for them, since they have previously fought over the government’s mass data collection.
Christie pointed out that he has been to funerals of victims of the 9/11 attacks and blasted Paul, who has stood staunchly against renewing government surveillance programs.
“Listen, Senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that,” Christie said, coming out swinging.
“I don’t trust President Obama with our records,” Paul retorted, before taking a shot at Christie’s interactions with Obama after Hurricane Sandy. “I know you gave President Obama a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, you go right ahead.”
4. Paging Dr. Ben Carson …
Carson wasn’t having much of a night debatewise. He was asked the second question, but after that, he wasn’t called on again for at least another half hour.
The good doctor, however, was good-natured about the oversight.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to get to talk again,” he joked, earning appreciative laughter from the crowd, before he was asked about enhanced-interrogation techniques.
“What we do to get the information we need is our business. I wouldn’t be broadcasting to everybody what we’re going to do,” he said. “There is no such thing as a politically correct war.”
Carson also fielded a question about race relations in the country and what he would do, as president, to help heal the divide. He described a situation in which he was asked why he doesn’t talk about race more. He answered that when he, a retired brain surgeon, worked on someone in the operating room, he was actually working on what makes that person who he or she truly is.
“The skin doesn’t make them who they are. The hair doesn’t make them who they are. And it’s time for us to move beyond that,” he said. “Our strength comes from our unity. We are the United States of America, not the Divided States. Those who want to destroy us are trying to divide us, and we shouldn’t let them do it.”
Carson ended the night rather strongly in his closing statement, taking a subtle hit at other candidates who bragged about credentials, while also stating his own intentions.
“Well, I haven’t said anything about me being the only one to do anything, so let me try that. I’m the only one to separate Siamese twins. The only one to operate on babies while they were still in their mother’s womb, the only one to take out half of a brain—although you would think, if you go to Washington, that someone had beat me to it,” Carson said tongue in cheek before getting serious. “But I’m very hopeful that I’m not the only one who’s willing to pick up the baton of freedom, because freedom is not free, and we must fight for it every day. Every one of us must fight for it, because we’re fighting for our children and the next generation.”
5. Jeb Bush didn’t tank, but he didn’t impress, either.
Because he comes from an American royal—er, that is, political—family, there are, of course, high expectations (and many reservations) surrounding Bush, and last night he was just … OK. Bush didn’t particularly stand out among the other candidates, but he didn’t tank the debate, either. He had a noncompelling performance. Consensus was that he seemed a bit out of practice at the beginning but eventually appeared to gain some stride as the night went on, though he never really left much of an impression.
Breanna Edwards is a newswriter at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.