That was quite a show last night. Any pretense of rationality and civility was stripped away, and what remained was feral and angry and raw. That usually wouldnâ€™t happen until around October 28 of NEXT YEAR, right before the general election. All the usual last-minute tropes were there - Democrats are liars and Communists, the “mainstream media” are active collaborators, the government the GOP wants to run is inefficient and corrupt, and what this country really needs is a big, heaping dose of tough love and authoritarian Daddy from whoever is speaking. And ultimately, facts mattered not at all. Feces were flung, insults were hurled as was furniture. While no one had his or her head bashed in with a rock, it wasnâ€™t for lack of trying by the candidates.
So based on any notion of rationality, nobody won the debate - it was a total train wreck. It exposed the absolutely base and primal nature of the deranged Republican mind to anyone who was paying even the slightest degree of attention. But Iâ€™ll do my best to assess the outcome and likely impact from within the GOP derangement p, which is a major sacrifice on my part. Youâ€™re welcome.
Who lost? Jeb Bush. He looked weak and ineffectual. He clearly is uncomfortable with anger and rage, even when it is being play acted. He tried to hurl some feces, but his heart wasnâ€™t in it and the poop got flung right back at him. And his comment about warm kisses was nauseating and creepy. Blech. I said last night that heâ€™s done, and I stand by that.
Several candidates didnâ€™t even register. Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul and flavor of the month Ben Carson - if any of them said something last night, it didnâ€™t register with me.
Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump seemed flat and defensive all night.
Chris Christie had a few good lines, but he also disappeared for long stretches. Ditto John Kasich, who should be doing better. Heâ€™s like the kid from Lord of the Flies who tries to impose order too soon, and ends up as one of the first to die. He didnâ€™t die last night, but heâ€™s going to - rock to the back of the head, I suspect.
Ted Cruz needs to stop sneering so much, but it fit with the surly and testy mood of the evening. None of it made any sense, but the crowd seemed to like it. Cruz will never win a “who do you want to have a beer with?” contest, but much of the Republican base wants a brawler rather than a bro, so heâ€™s gonna stick around for a while.
Marco Rubio is Ted Cruz with better looks, hard core opportunistic conservatism with a pretty face. He stood down Jeb Bush at the Florida Corral last night, getting the better of an argument in which he had no rational position. He gave a nice defense of himself as “not a rich guy,” although his personal finances are a total mess.
Whatâ€™s going to happen in the polls now? Trump and Carson will come back to earth, neither having acquitted himself well in the role of front runner. Cruz will pick up much of the disaffected and disappointed Trump and Carson pack. Cruz may see the greatest gains in the short run.
Rubio will rise, initially on the strength of stunned and reeling Bush voters. The problem in the short run is that there just arenâ€™t all that many Bush voters left.
Fiorina, Kasich, Paul and Huckabee will continue their slow fades into obscurity.
Bush will see a sharp drop in his polls, as sharp as it can be for a guy drifting along with 8%. Thereâ€™s nothing good to say here. What he did, he did poorly, and what he didnâ€™t do was even worse. I predict he will be out before the end of the year. He wonâ€™t linger along for months, embarrassing himself and more importantly his family. Bushes donâ€™t do that - if he gets out early enough, they can spin a fantasy narrative that he didnâ€™t lose, he left. Bushes DEFINITELY do that.
Chris Christie is a tough one to peg. His performance last night was vintage Christie, pugnacious and outraged, but there just wasnâ€™t a whole lot of screen time. He could go up, if for no other reason than the establishment wing of the GOP doesnâ€™t have too many warm bodies left. But I could just as well see him get no bump, because his performance was overshadowed by . . .
Marco Rubio. Personally, I think heâ€™s a complete fraud, but thatâ€™s never kept a Republican from success before. He has done the best job of trying to straddle the gap between the tea party and establishment wings of the Psrty, and both should be happy about his performance last night. He stood down the big bad establishment guy in Jeb Bush, and then wheeled around to present himself as an outsider without the rich pedigree of other candidates, to the delight of the angry, resentful right wing.
Heâ€™s going up, maybe not as much as Cruz to begin with, but some. And in the long run, if it ends up as Cruz v. Rubio, Rubio wins. Heâ€™s less of a dick, and heâ€™s better looking, even if he comes across as a total grifter. Cruz is despised by many moderate party stalwarts, while Rubio has no such baggage with tea party folks. And even though it will be played as moderates versus tea party, that wonâ€™t be the reality. Itâ€™ll be likeable tea party versus odious tea party. No matter how it goes, tea party wins.