GOP Chairman James Evans Critiques the First GOP Debate

Jeb Bush was the grown-up in the crowd, Marco Rubio’s stock went up, and Donald Trump was. . . Well, Donald Trump.

Those were the quick opinions Thursday night of Utah GOP Chairman James Evans as he watched in person the first major Republican presidential candidate from Cleveland.

Evans is a member of the national GOP’s governing body, which held organizational meetings in Cleveland, site of Fox New’s debate among the top 10 GOP candidates, based on a blending of polls.

Evans likes Scott Walker but admitted he didn’t think the Wisconsin governor did as well as he could have.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich did impress Evans.

But Evans believes the GOP field – now at 17 – is just too big.

“I think all of them” on the stage Thursday night “are capable individuals,” said Evans.

“My concern, there are simply too many candidates. It is time for a lot of them to ask themselves: “Is my running doing more harm than good to get a Republican elected to the White House,” or are they just looking out after their own self-interest,” said Evans.

“If they don’t have a chance of winning, it’s time for them to fold up their tent and do something else.”

Evans also said that he’s heard that Florida Sen. Rubio may be coming to Salt Lake in two weeks for a fund-raiser.

And that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul may be coming in late August for a fundraiser himself.

So at least early on Utah is not going to be completely ignored by some of the national GOP presidential candidates.

One note of interest: TV watchers may have found it odd that when Trump reiterated that he may not pledge his support for the ultimate GOP presidential nominee – and could run an independent campaign for president – it seemed the crowd in the Quicken Loan Center clapped and cheered.

Evans says when the TV debate went live at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, the stage mics weren’t turned on, and the crowd couldn’t hear Trump’s answers to the question of who among the 10 may not support the Republican nominee.

As Trump was saying he might run an independent campaign, the candidates’ mics came on –- and the crowd, not realizing what was asked of Trump and what he had said, started cheering.

“We were cheering because we could hear, not cheering because Trump was saying he might not support” the GOP nominee, said Evans.

“It was very confusing, and I don’t think the TV audience realized what was going in the auditorium.”

It’s problematic that Trump couldn’t take the pledge to support the GOP nominee, said Evans.

“If he’s running on the Republican brand, he should have some fidelity to the organization – it appears he doesn’t.”