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Wednesday, October 28

Who won tonight's debate among GOP presidential hopefuls? The GOP. UPDATED last at 1:15 AM EDT

The only caveat is that I missed the first half half of the "first tier" debate among the 10 candidates who lead the field of 14. But the part of the debate I heard was the best argument for the Republican Party that it's mustered in a long time. 

Every one of the 10 candidates answering questions from the CNBC panel of moderators was on point. And they had a tag team going, so the panel wasn't able to turn the debate into a gladiatorial contest among personalities. Mike Huckabee's refusal to take the bait from one panelist and attack Donald Trump ("I'm wearing a Trump tie") brought down the house. 

There were some airhead questions from the panel but the candidates turned them into enlightening discussions about repairing America's finances and the country's jobs markets. 

So that's the Republican answer to mockery from Democrats that the GOP has fallen apart. 

As to which candidate I think had the best policy recommendations -- the overriding theme of all the candidates was that big government in the USA has excelled at only one thing: making big messes. So you could pick blindfolded from the 10 and still come up a candidate who would be a better U.S. President than the Democrats' offerings.

The very limited time that each candidate had to answer questions actually worked in their favor. At this point most voters aren't closely following the position statements. With this large a field of hopefuls, right now people just want the gist of what each is proposing. So the candidates having to stuff their policies into sound bites made it easier for the GOP's broad themes, on which all the candidates agreed, to shine through.  

That has finally given the GOP what it's lacked for years: a coherent platform:

* transfer a broad range of federal programs to the states
* remove tax burden from lower and middle income Americans
* reduce corporate taxes and regulations that keep US companies offshore
* offer American workers viable private health insurance options
* across the board change regulations that are hard on small business

The first point should resolve the tussle between the rest of the party and ultra-conservatives, who simply want to do away with many federal agencies.    

As to the foreign policy side (which wasn't discussed during the period I listened) that's another story, one at this point I like no more than the Democratic candidate's policy proposals with the exception of Trump, who at this very early point seems to have the right general idea. Build up the military but focus on making America less dependent on countries such as China and on getting better trade deals for the U.S.          

Here's TIME's transcript of the debate.

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