Republicans took to a New Hampshire stage Monday night for a presidential forum that functioned as an early preview into the upcoming contest for the GOP nomination.
It was awkward.
Unlike the upcoming Fox News debate on Thursday, the “Voters First Forum” did not attempt to winnow the participants down to a effective number given the format and two hours of time available.
Fourteen candidates, back-to-back, rushed through only a handful of questions each — often speaking so quickly they stumbled. The moderator, Jack Heath, sometimes asked unwieldy multi-part questions that were dodged with little opportunity for follow-up. The candidates were sometimes interrupted and shooed from the stage. And they were sitting on stools in a rather unpresidential fashion.
Noticeably absent was Donald Trump, who polls consistently show has a wide, double-digit lead over his rivals both nationally and in the Granite State. The real-estate mogul told the New Hampshire Union Leader, a host of the forum, that one of the newspaper’s critical editorials convinced him to be a no-show.
“Therefore, and for other reasons including the fact that I feel there are too many people onstage to have a proper forum, I will not be attending,” Trump wrote in a letter to the Union Leader.
It’s unlikely that Trump regrets the decision to skip the event, which some reminded some observers of speed-dating. Trump, of course, has no problem getting media attention on his own.
Here are some highlights.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who went first, is told to walk off the stage when he’s not quite ready.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki (R) isn’t able to finish his sentence due to time limits.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) brings up the Monica Lewinsky scandal to attack Hillary Clinton.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) dodges a simple — but multi-part — climate change question.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) stumbles a bit while discussing a shirt from his ‘swag store.’
And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) jokingly wonders aloud if he’s ‘washed up.’
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