5 Takeaways From The GOP's First Major Forum

Photo: REX USA
Last night, 14 Republican presidential hopefuls gathered together for the first time, in New Hampshire, with a goal of introducing themselves more clearly to the American public. The televised event, hosted by the Voters First Forum, gave each participating candidate five minutes to address his or her running platform and agendas — by way of rapid-fire Q&A.

Suffice to say, many opinions were espoused and quotable moments ensued. Just in case you can't stomach a rerun of the entire two-hour forum, we've pulled out five takeaways to be aware of in case you get caught in a political conversation around the water cooler. Without further ado...

1. It seems highly unlikely that the only female GOP candidate will advance forward. Carly Fiorina is the sole woman seeking the Republican nomination, and it looks like she'll be out of the running very soon: She is dead last in the polls, and her onstage performance last night didn't do anything to move that needle.

2. Below-the-belt Clinton criticism ran rampant. Lindsey Graham brought up the decades-old Monica Lewinsky scandal as a way to criticize Hillary Clinton's politics. "I've been dealing with this crap for 20 years. I'm fluent in Clinton-speak," he said. "When [Bill] says, 'I didn't have sex with that woman,' he did. When [Hillary Clinton] tells us, 'Trust me, you have all the emails you need,' we haven't even scratched the surface." Bobby Jindal called Hillary — along with Barack Obama — a socialist; Fiorina launched into a full-on character attack, accusing the Democratic frontrunner of lying about her email server as well as about Benghazi.

3. Ted Cruz totally killed it on the platitudes front. Cruz may have appeared via teleprompter, but his stage presence is still heads above the other candidates. Somewhat surprising, when compared to his sound bites from recent weeks, Cruz kept his cool — courting potential voters with abstract calls to action in the process. "We’ll win by painting in bold colors and we’ll reignite the promise of America," he told audiences. Despite last night's well-received appearance, it remains unclear as to whether the Texas senator will make it to the top 10.

4. Jeb Bush might need some media training. In addition to pointing out that everyone in the Bush family has his or own own DNA, the former governor of Florida also spent some time fumbling verbally about how he feels about his father. "My dad is quite possibly the most perfect man alive, so it’s very hard of me to be critical of him," he said at one point. "In fact, I got a T-shirt that says, uh, at the Jeb swag store that says, I’m the uh, I’m the, uh, 'My dad’s the greatest man alive. If you don’t like it, I’ll take you outside.'" Statements like these make it tough to understand exactly who is on the campaign trail here: Jeb Bush, or the Bush legacy at large.

5. Donald Trump was out of sight but still top of mind.
Forget all the bad press he's received in recent months: The real-estate mogul is a major contender — even after deciding to sit out last night's forum. Despite — or perhaps because of — Trump's absence, his name wasn't uttered a single time throughout the entire event. But expect him to be very present at Thursday's inaugural GOP contenders' debate and, in the magnate's own words, not to be an especially skilled orator. "These politicians," he explained recently, "I always say, they’re all talk, no action. They debate all the time. They go out and they debate every night. I don’t debate." Which raises the question: What is he going to do on the podium Thursday?
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