Donald Trump suffered the most in the Fox News debate Thursday night, but it is unclear for now how much ground he might have lost or which of the other nine Republican presidential hopefuls gained from their nationally-televised confrontation.
That was the consensus of a group of political experts — pundits, academics, and Republican political consultants — who spoke to Newsmax shortly after the close of the two-hour conclave in Cleveland.
Moreover, in a surprising development, several in the group concluded that businesswoman Carly Fiorina should be included in the next "main event" of major GOP contenders. Fiorina, they felt, scored well in the so-called "happy hour debate" of seven lower-tier contenders that Fox hosted earlier in the evening.
The common denominator of our group of debate-watchers was that all were neutral in the race and were neither aligned with nor committed to any candidate before or after the debate.
"Donald Trump's biggest error was not accepting the pledge to not run as a third party candidate," said Republican consultant Ford O'Connell. "He was bombastic and entertaining right from the start, and skirted questions like a lifelong politician in a tight, controlled setting."
As to who gained, O'Connell told Newsmax: "Jeb Bush and Scott Walker played it safe and largely underwhelmed. Marco Rubio was the winner. Whether Rubio gets a bump in the polls is open for debate. [Mike] Huckabee, [Chris] Christie and [John] Kasich also shined."
O'Connell agreed: "One person [those] on the stage should be looking over their shoulder at in the next debate — Carly Fiorina."