As Donald Trump‘s Boeing jet taxied into Cleveland’s airport, the first debate — the happy hour debate — was about to get under way on Fox News. Trump will take center stage at the main event tonight, but at 5 p.m. the bottom 7 candidates, based on an average as of Tuesday of the five most recent national polls, had the stage to themselves.
Fox News daytime anchors Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum are moderating the undercard to a relatively empty Quicken Loans Arena. Hemmer and MacCallum quickly introduced the 7 candidates then told them to mind the “gentle” bell, which tells them their time is up. “Wait ’til you hear what the others are going to get,” said Hemmer about the timer being used at tonight’s debate — it’s the shot-clock buzzer used during Cavs games.
It was ladies second at the first debate, with Rick Perry getting the first question and Carly Fiorina getting the second. In the first 10 minutes, all 7 candidates had been called on. The last to enter the race, Gov. Jim Gilmore, was the last called on in the first round.
And then, the conversation moved to Trump…
The debate went until 6:20 p.m. ET. “I think everybody did fine,” Chris Wallace determined in post-debate analysis. He and George Will both gave high marks to Carly Fiorina. “I think she just stood above the other six people on the stage,” said Wallace. “She was sharp on national security, she was not surprisingly for a former CEO, sharp no domestic policy and budget, money issues.”