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A Republican’s take on the second GOP debate: There’s hope when Trump’s quiet

The second GOP primary debate of the 2016 election season held far more promise than the first. While still dominated by the larger-than-life persona that is The Trump, we were also able to hear from the other candidates — some who actually give hope to this conservative that all is not lost.

I’ll admit I’ve been worried. Donald Trump has held a steady lead in the polls which truly boggles my mind.

He doesn’t have a track record of supporting typical party stances on many topics, is quite the egomaniac, and I haven’t heard much from him at all in the way of specific plans for his presidency — I just know that he wants to “Make America Great Again.” Last night, while up against the likes of Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio — who both had a phenomenal night and were easily the debate’s winners — Trump’s responses made him sound less like a president and more like SNL’s Girl at a Party You Wish You Hadn’t Talked To.

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Trump’s answers on serious national issues made him appear uninformed at best. After reminding us that he’s a very successful businessman who’s made billions of dollars, he went on to talk about foreign policy (“I will have the finest team” who will “solve a lot of problems”), border security (“I will build a wall” to keep out the “really bad dudes”), immigration reform (“they’re gonna go out and they’ll come back if they deserve to come back”) and his timeline for announcing his advisory team (“very soon and I’m meeting with people who are terrific people”). When pressed on an issue, he’d respond with things like “the greatest legal scholars agree with me” rather than offer facts or figures to support his viewpoint.

More: 7 Donald Trump gaffes shaking up his presidential campaign

Dr. Ben Carson had an improved night over the first debate, and seemed better informed and more ready to jump into the ring with the bigger candidates. Carly Fiorina took the high road on several issues, refusing to be baited with questions obviously intended to start an argument. She came off especially classy when responding to Trump’s disparaging Rolling Stone comments about her appearance, and refused to pander to the end-of-night “what woman do you want on the $10 bill” question (she said she wouldn’t change it and basically reprimanded the push for a new face as treating woman as a special interest group). As someone who is pro-life, I was especially pleased to hear her passionate discussion of the Planned Parenthood videos — it’s refreshing to see a candidate show emotion that doesn’t come across as completely scripted.

Marco Rubio was the biggest surprise considering his lackluster performance in the August debate. He spoke eloquently and answered each question with more than just talking points, showing a true grasp of many of the issues discussed. Rubio came across as smart — very smart — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big jump in his fundraising over the next few days. He speaks of America in a very Reagan-esque way, “With the right person in office the 21st century can be the greatest era our nation has known,” showing ardent hope for our country that seems genuine and sincere.

Compare Rubio and Fiorina’s final statements with Trump’s. Rubio talked about the uniqueness of America, a country “unlike any other nation that has existed throughout human history,” founded on “universal principles that were powerful: the dignity of all people, human rights, the rights of all to live and freedom and liberty and choose their own path in life.” Fiorina went into a detailed talk about Ladies Liberty and Justice, smartly using the pronoun “she” over and over and over. Both sounded very presidential and discussed American ideals I both covet and admire.

More: A Republican’s reaction to the first GOP debate: My party is doomed

Trump’s closing statement? “When I become president we will do something really special, we will make this country great again. We will have more jobs. We will have more of everything… And the world will respect us. They will respect us like never before, and it will be actually a friendly world.” My 6-year-old could have stood up there and said something similar (or better).

Hopefully as the primary season continues, the debates will continue to be more issue-focused and less worried about Trump. Our country will be better for it in the long run.

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