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Tuesday night in Las Vegas marks the last time we’ll see the GOP candidates together before the new year. And they gave us a barnburner to finish out 2015. For the first time, we began to see the true policy and political divergences between the candidates. As we dive into the Christmas season, this exciting debate won’t change the fundamentals of the race.

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Even money

A number of the candidates had solid performances, but none of them was the clear winner as we’ve seen previously. Most of them did the things they likely thought they needed to do. Chris Christie was strong, once again having a memorable one-liner and taking the bark off his opponents in the U.S. Senate. He is at his best when calling out the BS of his stage-mates and lambasting President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

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Carly Fiorina, too, was solid but didn’t do enough to break through the noise created by the rest of the field. John Kasich reminded voters he’s from Ohio and a grownup. The first of those is likely far more important than the second.

Rand Paul had an interesting night. He once again showed his depth, knowledge, and thoughtfulness on issues. I guarantee that he was the only candidate who knows that Wednesday is the Bill of Rights’ birthday. He was unafraid to call out Christie on his statement that he’d shoot down a Russian plane veering into a prospective no-fly zone. Lastly, as I’ve said before, Rand Paul should be in the Senate forever and moonlight as a constitutional-law professor.

Jeb! vs. Trump

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Fight! Fight! Fight! If we’d been in seventh grade instead of at the Venetian in Las Vegas, that’s what we might have heard the crowd yelling as Jeb laid into Trump. Team Bush clearly came into the debate with a plan. While there was little strategic value in berating The Donald repeatedly, he tactically ensured that he’ll be in many of the clips shown on national and local television over the balance of the week.

Trump, for his part, started in a fairly subdued mood but clearly didn’t like dealing with Bush’s attacks. However, there is no one better, perhaps Christie, with a one-liner, and Trump was unafraid to unload on Jeb, citing his poll numbers and stage position. Trump and Cruz declined to go after each other despite prompting from the moderators. I will say I was very concerned when I (and likely the rest of the world) realized that Trump has no idea what the nuclear triad is or how it works.

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Rubio vs. Cruz

The clashes between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were the most intriguing dynamic on stage. On a number of key issues, they laid out their vision for the future of the country, and by extension the Republican Party. Cruz, riding high after new poll numbers in Iowa, staked out his positions in his consistent, confident style. He’s not as polished as Rubio, but he makes up for it with certitude. On immigration, Cruz takes the hard line. On national security, Cruz shows restraint.

Rubio might be the Teflon candidate of 2016. Asked specifically about his Gang of Eight immigration push of a few years ago, Rubio used his mastery of the pivot to discuss his family and personal experience. And while I think he got away mostly clean from the issue Tuesday night, now that it’s been broached publicly, expect the Cruz and Trump campaigns (and maybe Paul) to aggressively go after him on it. On the foreign affairs front, Rubio has gone fully over to the neoconservative mindset. Interesting to see if GOP primary voters are in line with his interventionist stances.

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Crapped out

Dr. Ben Carson is a very smart man. He appears to be a very nice man. He should not be running for president of the United States. He’s either incapable or unwilling to prepare appropriately (or at all) for these contests. As he has fallen, Cruz has risen. At this point, Carson will make it to Iowa, but that is likely where his aspirations will end.

A veteran public affairs and political professional with more than 15 years experience, Reed
has been in politics and public affairs for nearly 20 years. Since 2011, Galen has been the
owner of Jedburghs, LLC – a full service public affairs, public relations and political
consultancy that focuses on providing boutique service to its clients.

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Galen has spent the last eight years servicing major corporate clients and political campaigns,
advising Fortune 50, 100 and 1000 companies in need of high-level counsel in the fields of
strategic communications, procurement and legislation. In addition to his private sector
work, Reed has managed several high-profile ballot measure campaigns in California and
Colorado – directing all aspects of message development and voter contact.

Before moving to the private sector, Reed served as Deputy Campaign Manager for John
McCain’s presidential campaign and Deputy Campaign Manager for Arnold
Schwarzenegger’s successful 2006 re-election campaign.

Prior to his move to California, Galen worked on both the 2000 and 2004 campaigns of
President George W. Bush’s. Between campaigns, Galen spent a year at the White House
and served the Bush Administration at both the US Department of the Treasury and the
Department of Homeland Security.

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In 2014, Galen ran six campaigns in California, including a targeted congressional seat, a
statewide race and four legislative independent expenditures. In addition, he was a debate
coach for newly elected US Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

Reed has had his work published in such outlets as The Orange County Register,
RealClearPolitics and Politico and is regularly a voice on California and national politics in
The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.