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After GOP debate, these candidates should quit the race

Retirement never comes easy when you have experienced the spotlight, but it's time for several GOP candidates to step aside for the good of their party.

Good night Ben. Carly, you had a great run. Pataki, Graham, Santorum and Huckabee: you don't even poll high enough to make the main debate. If you really don't want Hillary Clinton to win the presidency – as you all claim – then put aside the ego and allow GOP voters to get a more substantive look at the candidates resonating with voters.

Throughout the night, Carly Fiorina struggled to stand out. At one point, she took on the moderators for not giving her an opportunity to speak. It wasn't pretty, especially as she hastily tried to speak over the moderator who politely asked her to wait her turn. She had her moment earlier in the race. It seems to be over now.

(L-R) Republican Presidential candidates George Pataki, Mike Huckabee,Rick Santorum, and Lindsey Graham pose for a photo before the start of the under card Republican Presidential debate ,at The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas,Nevada on December 15, 2015.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images
(L-R) Republican Presidential candidates George Pataki, Mike Huckabee,Rick Santorum, and Lindsey Graham pose for a photo before the start of the under card Republican Presidential debate ,at The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas,Nevada on December 15, 2015.

Ben Carson also faded quietly into the night. In a debate packed with substantive foreign-policy questions, Carson came across as meager, surrounded by foreign-policy nerds. And his tone didn't help either. When the moderator questioned Carson's strength and ability to utilize the U.S. military might, he said his demeanor shouldn't be confused with weakness. Unfortunately, he didn't communicate why his demeanor should be associated with strength.

By contrast, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush all gained momentum as the debate progressed.

Bush continually challenged Trump and highlighted situations where Trump's view of the world is myopic. At one point, Bush accused Trump of getting his foreign-policy ideas from the morning TV shows and the audience ate it up with applause. But what really stood out was how Bush laid out a logical argument on why Trump's approach is dangerous for the world.


Perhaps Trump wanted to appear more presidential or demonstrate why he has the right temperament, but for most of the night, Trump wasn't Trump. He didn't attack. He didn't fight back. Instead, he listened as others attacked him. But as the night wore on, the attacks seemed to fluster Trump. Reaction shots of his facial features during the attacks looked like a caricature of his "Saturday Night Live" character.

Ted Cruz's poll numbers continue to rise, suggesting a potential grudge match between Trump and Cruz, but they looked more like tag-team partners than opponents. At one point, Trump even patted Cruz on the back after Cruz threw a light jab at Trump. For those hoping for a street fight, they left disappointed.

The real dust up took place between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Rubio showed off his deep foreign-policy understanding, particularly with a question on the triad nuclear. Rubio explained succinctly what the nuclear triad was and why upgrades are needed. The question was originally posed to Trump, but his answer suggested he didn't know what it was. The contrast quickly distinguished Rubio's knowledge and depth in foreign policy.

The GOP leaders are sounding more anxious with the uncertainty of their nominee as the months get closer to the Iowa caucus. The candidates have millions in the bank and the eventual nominee is anyone's guess. Will it lead to a floor fight or brokered deal at their convention? We likely won't know until late March or April after more candidates drop out of the race, but if the Republican party wants to take more control of its destiny, it can begin by ending the under-card debate and raising the standards for appearing in any future debates.

The more distractions and sideshows, the fewer opportunities voters get to see what these candidates really know.


Commentary by Mark Macias, head of Macias PR, a global public-relations firm, that has run media and branding campaigns for politicians, tech start-ups, financial firms, nonprofits and companies. He's also author of the book, "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing theMedia." Follow him on Twitter @markmacias.