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GOP Mega-Debate Blog

8:18 PM: So, yes, we're trying to figure out what the hell was going on with Ben Carson.

8:20 PM: "I talked about Muslims. We have a problem."

8:21 PM: For Trump, I think that was a pretty strong opening.

8:22 PM: Seems pretty clear that Cruz got briefed on very bad polling about himself.

8:25 PM: I'd say Ted Cruz is off to a really tough beginning of the debate.

8:26 PM: Here's our definitive timeline of the Cruz/Carson debacle. Is Ted telling the truth?

8:31 PM: I don't think this is the best way for Rubio to convince people he's not repeating lines that he's learned by rote.

8:33 PM: Rubio's killing himself here. No one spontaneously repeats the verbatim line over and over and over like this.

8:37 PM: It was hard to keep up with all that was going on there. But I think that was one of those very bad spontaneous moments for Rubio. Christie (and others) have been pushing this line that Rubio is green, scripted and protected. Rubio couldn't have illustrated that better than by trying to recover by going back to the identical pre-fab stump speech line three times in a row. Rubio defended himself from the charge that he's just an automaton who can only give a stump speech by retreating again and again to his stump speech. And Christie was quick on his feet enough to catch it in real time.

8:45 PM: If Rubio's boxing right now he really, really needs the round to end.

Tonight's Debate

We will of course be bringing you live coverage of tonight's Republican primary debate in New Hampshire. You expect the hosting networks to say things like this and even the candidates. But I think there's a good argument that this will be the most important debate of the GOP primary campaign.

There are many more primaries to go of course and many more debates. But a number of candidates are just barely hanging on. Really every candidate aside from Trump, Rubio and Cruz. Depending on how things pan out on Tuesday, even one of them could be kicked off the island.

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I Have A Theory

As I mentioned yesterday, Iowa seldom determines New Hampshire - quite the opposite, if anything. But I can't think of an Iowa winner who's gotten less bump or media fawning or anything from an Iowa win than Ted Cruz, especially an upset win. Occam's Razor, everybody hates Ted Cruz. But now there's a poll showing his support collapsing in New Hampshire - so total anti-bump. But I wonder if there's something more to it.

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Welp

An outlier or a trend? Polls as recently as just a day earlier show Hillary Clinton maintaining a sizable nationwide lead among Democratic primary voters. But a poll out from Quinnipiac this morning shows Bernie Sanders pulling into a virtual tie Clinton 44, Sanders 42. That would needless to say be a very big deal. Just yesterday Reuters/Ipsos had a 15 point Clinton lead and PPP had a 21 point Clinton lead.

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A Quick Take on Tonight's Debate

I think we have two basic questions coming out of this debate - vision for the Democratic party and electability. Nor are these questions distinct. The issue of electability goes to the heart of the vision for the party, since it goes to the root of questions about pragmatism, risk aversion, settling for half or quarter loaves or ending up with nothing. After several of these encounters - after last night and tonight - these basic questions, dividing points seem very clear and well illustrated.

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Dem Debate Blogging #6

10:58 PM: It's amazing how 'path to citizenship', bringing 11 million out of the shadows was at least an elite consensus three years ago (and had broad public support). Now it's something you cannot even imagine any Republican saying.

11:00 PM: So ABC decided no mercy slots in the Saturday GOP debate.

11:02 PM: Very weird question from Chuck Todd. Just very off key.

11:03 PM: No question Sen. Sanders shouts at least as much as Clinton. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Dem Debate Blogging #5

10:25 PM: I must say I find the whole idea of 'auditing' the Iowa caucus is silly and even vaguely offensive. Obviously, they can recount and do whatever. But a lot of what people are talking about are things that are inherent to the 'caucus' process. It's not an election. It's not one person one vote. It is inherent chaotic and kind of messy. Now, maybe we shouldn't have caucuses at all. I think it would likely be a good idea to get rid of them. But for now, that's how they do it in Iowa. Most of the people complaining are either being disingenuous or simply don't understand the process. Why is the DMR is saying it's a problem when they're the big paper in the state? Good question. I don't have a good explanation for that. But I stand by what I said above.

10:29 PM: I will put my cards on the table. I think Sanders would be cut to pieces in a general election. I think he's great. I'd support him like crazy if he were nominated. But I think he'd be cut to pieces.

10:31 PM: "Before it was the emails it was Benghazi."

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