The good news is that this GOP debate focused more than previous debates on real substantive issues, including economic growth, fiscal restraint, and replacement of Obamacare.
Unfortunately, much of what was said by the candidates, especially Donald Trump, was so confused and nonsensical that it is doubtful the electorate learned very much.
On Obamacare, Trump kept saying he wanted to get rid of the law but “keep pre-existing conditions.” Presumably, what he meant was that the only provisions of Obamacare he would keep would be the provisions which prohibit insurers from charging higher premiums to persons who have pre-existing conditions. But he also said he would get rid of the individual mandate (reversing something he said previously). He never explained how he would make the insurance market work with no rating by insurers of customers based on health status and yet also with no incentive for people to stay insured. Then he kept saying over and over that we need to eliminate the lines around the states. What he probably meant is that insurers should be allowed to sell across state lines. That was the entirety of his plan to replace Obamacare.
Selling insurance nationwide may be modestly helpful. It does not come close to constituting a plan for fixing health care in the United States.
On fiscal policy, his answers were even worse. When asked what he would do to cut spending and reduce budget deficits, he said the answer was elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse. This is the oldest and most tired, canned answer in the book. He has no idea what he is talking about. The only surprise is that he didn’t throw congressional pay and foreign aid in the mix for good measure.
Senator Rubio was aggressive and took the fight to Trump in a way he hadn’t before, which is what he had to do. That was nice to see regardless of whether or not it works.
James C. Capretta is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.