Republican Presidential Debate: Winners and Losers of the First GOP Showdown

We’re 460 days from the 2016 election, but Thursday, all eyes were on the GOP.

ByABC News
August 7, 2015, 12:01 AM

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- We’re still 460 days from the 2016 presidential election, but for two hours on Thursday night, all eyes turned to the stage of the first Republican presidential debate.

Jeb Bush stayed above the fray, but faced some uncomfortable questions. Chris Christie and Rand Paul clashed bitterly. Ben Carson struggled to get a word in edgewise. But the spotlight shined brightest on the man at center stage: Donald Trump, who is currently at the top of the national GOP primary polls. He was alternately cheered and booed by the audience at the Quicken Loans Arena and he didn’t pull his punches.

Here is a look at the ABC News team’s winners and losers -- and those in between -- from the first 2016 Republican debate:


Donald Trump: He got huge cheers for saying exactly what he thinks throughout the debate, never tempering his now-signature style. Right out of the gate moderator Bret Baier asked the ten candidates to raise their hand if any one was “unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican Party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person?”

Trump was the only person to raise his hand -- even in the face of boos from the audience -- saying, “I cannot say.”

“I can totally make the pledge if I'm the nominee. I will pledge I will not run as an independent. I am discussing it with everybody. But I'm talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee,” Trump said.

But throughout Trump stayed true to Trump, which is what got him to the top of the polls in the first place.

The Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul Clash: One of the better mini-brawls of the night took place early on between the New Jersey governor and Paul over national security and privacy. It’s not the first time the two have gone head-to-head, but this time it seemed to get personal. Christie was asked if he can really “assign blame to Sen. Paul for opposing the bulk collection of people's phone records in the event of a terrorist attack?”

Christie said yes, mentioning the Sept. 11 attacks before it escalated.

Christie turned to Paul and accused him of “sitting in a subcommittee blowing hot air,” to which Paul responded “Here's the problem, governor. You fundamentally misunderstood the Bill of Rights.”

Paul then brought up the hug heard ‘round the world with President Obama: “I don't trust president Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.”

Christie answered by saying the “hugs” that he remembers “are the hugs that I gave to the families who lost their people on September 11th. Those are the hugs I remember,” Christie said. Paul answered with an eye roll.

John Kasich: He was greeted as a hometown hero by the audience who rose to their feet to cheer when the Ohio governor was introduced. Kasich also got points for treating Donald Trump in a very different way than others on the stage, as his ally.

Kasich said Trump was “hitting a nerve in this country...he’s got his solutions, some of us have other solutions.” And when Trump said he had given money to his opponents standing next to him, Kasich jumped in and said: “You're welcome to give me a check, Donald if you would like...I hope you will give to me.” Soliciting campaign donations on a debate stage? It’s an innovative and possibly winning move. Trump answered, “Sounds to me, governor.”