Here are the Winners and Losers From Last Night's Debate

August 7th 2015

Sarah Gray

On Thursday, 17 Republican candidates for president in 2016 appeared in two presidential debates in Cleveland. The top 10 candidates in recent polls took the stage during primetime, while the bottom seven debated a few hours earlier in the . Here's who won and lost.

Winner: Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina

The consensus winner of the evening was Carly Fiorina, who had the strongest showing of all 17 hopefuls, even though she participated in the earlier debate for the bottom 7 candidates.

"My goal was to introduce myself to American people," said Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, after the debate.

Fiorina received credit for her polished presentation and effective digs at Republican opponent Jeb Bush and possible Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

"She offered crisp answers on Iran and took an oblique swipe at Jeb Bush for his fumbled remarks on Planned Parenthood, saying the GOP needs a nominee who won't 'stumble before he even gets into the ring,'" the National Journal wrote after the debate. "She also delivered some of the fiercest critiques of Hillary Clinton, a staple of her campaign."

Grassroots conservatives seemed to be impressed by Fiorina as well.

"Already I think Carly Fiorina has made herself a clear favorite for Vice President," wrote Neil Stevens, a blogger on the conservative site Red State. "And for the first time has seriously put herself up there as having an outside shot of getting the nomination for President."

To find out where Fiorina stands on five major issues that matter to young people, check out this explainer.

Loser: Donald Trump

Donald Trump comments on women

Businessman Donald Trump immediately caused controversy by refusing to pledge to support to the eventual Republican nominee (if it's not him) and refrain from running as an independent. This received boos from the Republican crowd in Cleveland, as it's widely believed that an independent run by Trump would split conservative voters and effectively hand the general election to the Democrats.

Trump was also on the defensive after Fox News host and debate moderator Megyn Kelly asked him about his record of insulting women. He responded by insulting Rosie O'Donnell and stating he doesn't believe in political correctness, setting off a firestorm on Twitter.

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Donald Trump's remarks on women raised eyebrows in the first #GOPDebate. Here was Rosie O'Donnell's reaction. More reactions from Twitter: http://bit.ly/1J0xmYX

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Losers: Supporters of Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood Building

Unsurprisingly, Planned Parenthood was the target of many of the candidates. Women's issues—especially health—wove in and out of the GOP debate, overall, as the candidates staked out their positions on Planned Parenthood and abortion. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was asked by Kelly if he was too out of the mainstream for not supporting abortion exceptions if the life of the mother is in danger. Bush reiterated his pro-life credentials in Florida, despite being on the board of a company that donates to Planned Parenthood. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee made it clear that he believes life begins at conception. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio attempted to refute the assertion that he had supported allowing certain exceptions for when abortions should be allowed (in the cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk).

Winners: Marco Rubio and John Kasich

Marco Rubio

Although Trump, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stood out for their numerous verbal scuffles—Paul v. Christie, Paul v. Trump—the most substantive answers came from Ohio's own Gov. John Kasich and Rubio.

Rubio frequently addressed the economic issues that Americans face in the 21st century with jobs moving overseas or being eliminated by technology. As a result, Rubio managed to stay above the fray and speak about problems facing real people.

To find out where Marco Rubio stands on five major issues that matter to young people, check out this explainer.

John Kasich

Kasich took a more moderate tone on Thursday, including defending his decision to accept Medicaid funding from the federal government. Kasich stated that the funds were used to help the mentally ill in prison, help those with substance addiction, and to limit the amount of uninsured people using the emergency room for primary care.

Kasich also said that though he believes in traditional marriage, he has accepted the Supreme Court's decision legalizing it nationally, would be fine with his children if they were gay, and even recently attended a same-sex wedding.

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Losers: Young people

Both debates barely touched on or did not even mention college affordability, climate change, police brutality, or drug reform -- all issues that are important to young voters.

Gov. Walker was asked about the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality. He responded that police need better training. "It's about training," Walker said, without acknowledging the Black Lives Matter movement. At the tail end of the debate, Dr. Carson, the only Black candidate, was asked about the "divide" in America. He responded that, as a surgeon, he cares more about insides and not hair and skin. "Our strength in the nation comes from our unity," Carson said. "We are a United States of America, we are not a divided states of America."

Check out these explainers to learn more about the candidates' stances on issues that matter to young people:

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