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CEO Daily: Wednesday, November 11

Hats off to Fox Business for staging a debate that focused on the substance of economic policy. For the first time, it became clear that Republicans have fielded a group of remarkably smart and articulate candidates for the presidential nomination.

 

The exception was Donald Trump, who stood by his plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants and wall off Mexico (“We will have a wall. The wall will be built.”), and twice earned boos from the audience for personal attacks on others (To Kasich: “I don’t have to hear from this man”; to Fiorina “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?”)

 

Some takeaways:

 

Immigration is the bright dividing line – and may prove the Achilles heel – for the Republican party. John Kasich and Jeb Bush both forcefully dismissed Trump’s plan, while Ted Cruz gave a more artful defense of tough border policies, saying the intelligentsia might feel differently if lawyers and journalists were flooding across the border. Rubio won the issue by staying quiet.

 

–The tax debate got interesting, with all of the candidates advocating massive reform, and two of them – Ted Cruz and Rand Paul – arguing for a value-added tax – which economists view as more efficient than corporate income or payroll taxes, but many conservatives fear would become a money machine to feed big government.

 

-While polls show a slight majority of Republicans voters favor an increase in the minimum wage, none of the Republican candidates were willing to go there. Even Ben Carson, who opened the door to a minimum wage hike in an earlier debate, backed off this time. Donald Trump bizarrely talked about “wages too high.”

 

–The star of the night was Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker, who earned kudos on Twitter as “the British guy,” and even won a standoff with the Oscar music attempting to herald a commercial break. Baker ignored the music and continued to ask his question, forcing the music to retreat.

 

It’s not clear the debate changed anyone’s mind – in a CNN focus group of 200 people, only one person switched allegiance. But here is my read: Rubio remains strong, Jeb survives another day, Cruz is a force to contend with, Kasich offers an interesting alternative, and Trump and Carson have passed their peak.

 

If you missed the debate, we’ve condensed the highlights into a four minute video that you can watch here.

 

More news below. Share the CEO Daily.

 

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

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