10:01 PM: Whatever else you can say, Rand Paul has kicked Trump's ass.
10:02 PM: Jeb: Dude, my dynasty has been running the GOP for three decades. Where else can I find advisers?
10:12 PM: Lord, two hours in, this debate is a mess.
10:14 PM: "Arab boots"
10:22 PM: No one sings the song of conservative victimization quite as well as Ted Cruz.
10:36 PM: This reminds me of the heavyweight fights my dad and I used to watch on TV like forty years ago when you're in the 14th round and Ali and the other guy are just sort of hanging on to each other because they're so tired and the ref keeps having to break them up and demand they fight.
10:48 PM: This Trump vaccine thing is weird.
10:57 PM: Jake Tapper definitely punch drunk at this point.
11:03 PM: I hate to break it to these guys. But every President doesn't get to have their own Air Force One. And that wasn't even Reagan's. Like four or five presidents used it.
A year or so ago, I said that Walker was the sleeper candidate. There's a lot in his resume that should make him a strong candidate. But he's stumbled again and again on the national stage. And I think the big thing is this: he does not come off as a likable guy. He's aggressive. If you're in line with his ideology then his aggressiveness is appealing. He's a fighter. He seems, and I think is, ruthless. And he's successful. You cannot take away from him that he ran on - and pushed through - an extremely conservative agenda in a bluish state. Big deal. But only a small portion of the electorate is that ideological. If you're not, I think he comes off very differently. As aggressive and kind of a jerk.
They used to say that even for people who didn't agree with President Bush, he was the kind of guy you could see yourself having a beer with. I don't think people without a strong ideological grounding on the right will see Walker that way. He's not the guy you have a beer with. He's the guy who would stick out his leg and trip you when you're on your way to have a beer with someone else. Maybe President Bush, maybe not. But he's not likable. And those people don't get elected President.
And of course, from Hugh Hewitt.
I was just talking to a colleague about Trump tonight. Is he as dominating as he was in last month's debate? Or is he more cautious? Less pointed? I'm not sure. This debate does have a different feel to me. I'm seeing more of Cruz, more of Bush (though not in a good way for him), Fiorina is holding the ground a lot. I think it's right that he's not dominating in the same way. In part, Fox News made him dominant by going after him so hard.
But here's the thing. Trump is the only one who says we need to build a big physical wall. He's the only one who says he will deport 12 million people. He says Americans should speak English. Full stop.
None of the rest say these aren't good ideas. They're just too hard or not realistic. Trump's points are clear. They are in line with base Republican thinking. So I still think he's winning.
The other point - and on this I agree with my colleague - is whether or not Trump is doing well or not, Jeb Bush is not doing well. He seems weak and unfocused. He asked Donald Trump to apologize to his wife. Trump said no. Jeb is weak. I don't see him ever breaking out of this cycle of weakness and defeat. So if it's not Trump and I still can't really imagine it can be, who?
Late Update: Also notable, something seems slightly off about Trump's forward hair zone? Like a little limp or kind of resting down to a point? Thoughts?
9:14 PM: No one on the stage is willing to say that trying to deport 12 million people is crazy. Just not realistic, can I answer a different question? Win for Trump.
A few quick takeaways.
None of the contenders were willing to really go for the jugular and say that Donald Trump lacked the temperament to be commander-in-chief. That was significant.
Second, Trump seemed to get substantially better in this debate over last one. Again, big deal.
For whatever reason, Trump seemed to fade to the background in the last half hour while the others went nuts about killing people abroad. Curious why.
8:34 PM: Jeb owned. We've got that out of the way.
8:41 PM: Cruz: "This deal will spend $100 billion making the Obama administration the world's leading finance of radical islamic terrorism."
8:43 PM: Good answer there from Rand Paul. But it sort of shows how completely crazy the baseline on foreign policy is with this group. Trump and Rand Paul actually come off as pretty level headed. Kasich does too. But he's actually a serious candidate.
8:46 PM: "They threaten the very essence of Western Civilization."
8:47 PM: I'm remembering once when I was on Hewitt's show maybe 15 years ago and listening to him concern-trolling about famine in North Korea.
8:51 PM: Ted Cruz is in his mid-40s but he's as callow as he was as an undergrad.
8:55 PM: Wow, that Huckabee tirade was nuts.
8:58 PM: Watching this, you just see how Cruz keeps walking Republicans down the shutdown garden path. Hilarious.
9:06 PM: Good lord. Staffers just told me that this debate goes on for three hours.
9:07 PM: Trump: I wasn't insulting her looks. She's hot.
8:12 PM: Props to CNN execs for giving Jake Tapper those injections of Epinephrine.
8:13 PM: Rubio water joke about as well handled as original water goof.
8:15 PM: First presidential debate use of word "braggadocious" in US history. Drink.
8:16 PM: Watching Carson's intro gives me a better sense of why he's surging as a sort of anti-Trump. The guy is so gentle in his speech and manner I almost wonder sometimes whether he's going to just fade away. He's everything that Trump isn't.
8:20 PM: Not to get policy-ish but Trump's hair looks a bit off?
8:21 PM: This is not disappointing me.
8:23 PM: Walker's zinger!!! oh, no. Learn timing, dude. Ouch.
8:25 PM: I think Walker's word fugue there may be like agonal debating?
8:26 PM: I think Walker just said it's about time the American people realize he's awesome?
8:27 PM: On the plus side, 30 minutes in and now Hugh Hewitt?
The Trump phenomenon seems to encourage minor ritual humiliations like this gauntlet walking for a group portrait.