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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I sense that a major shift happened over the last three or four days culminating in last night's debate, though it is all but unnoticed. It is not only clear that Donald Trump is now the odds on favorite to be the Republican nominee - GOP party regulars are increasingly comfortable or resigned to the prospect. They seem more worried about the prospect of Ted Cruz as the party nominee. Cruz isn't now the highly imperfect Stop Trump candidate. Trump is taking the role of the Stop Cruz candidate.

The first Bundy militant was arrested in Oregon today by federal officials. You're probably saying, "About time!"

But the nature of the arrest really captures the ridiculously virtual nature of the 'stand-off'. 62 year old Kenneth Medenbach had headed out from the compound to the local Safeway, presumably to stock up on milk, flour, Twizzlers, whatever. But that doesn't seem to be why he was arrested, not precisely. He was arrested not only because he was off the compound and presumably easy to arrest but because he'd taken a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vehicle!

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Last night I noted that Ted Cruz's blanket claim that there's zero chance that his presidential eligibility is in question is simply false. He stood behind his own expertise as a lawyer who's argued multiple cases before the Supreme Court to say that this simply is not a serious issue. Indeed, Ari Melber, the legal expert on MSNBC and an acquaintance of mine, was on the air this morning and said:

To be fair to Ted Cruz and the issue here, this is not taken that seriously in legal circles that [it] would be something that would bar him from running or being president. It's true when Donald Trump and others have repeated that this exact question has not been resolved by the federal courts, let alone the Supreme Court. So in that sense, because it is rare and an arcane sentence, it's accurate to say, we don't know for certain.

I am not in a position to be too critical of this statement because this is what I myself thought as recently as a week ago, and I said as much. But it's actually not accurate. The fact that Cruz was so definitive, so absolute, should and will force an on-going conversation, interwoven into the presidential campaign, which will show it's not true.

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This debate had a lot of drama and pyrotechnics. But debates lead to elections. And elections are zero-sum exercises. Everyone who does well must do so at someone else's expense. From that perspective, I think there were only three real players in this exercise: Trump, Cruz and Rubio. Trump wins, Cruz loses a bit of ground but not much and the clock continues to run out on Rubio.

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Alright, that tirade from Rubio was something I'd expect from some crazy ranter on Fox or maybe Pam Geller. He is claiming that ISIS has a systematic plan to "manipulate" the immigration system, infiltrating engineers, doctors, people over the Southern border. Apparently, ISIS infiltrated the wife of the jihadi couple in San Bernardino into the country. There might be hints and shreds of evidence for some of this. But this is a tapestry of exaggeration, BS and just nonsense. And it seems like this is his answer, finally an answer, for his complete turnaround on immigration. Well, that was 2013 before ISIS. So everything's different now. That was just plain bizarre.

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10:13 PM: I've seen a million of these debates and I've seen very few comebacks, smackdowns quite as total or as successful as that New York values exchange between Cruz and Trump. 9/11 is unassailable in a GOP primary. It's the ur-event in current GOP foreign policy. And the genuine somberness of Trump was a fitting rejoinder to Cruz's crass and fairly gross pandering to the various unlovely meanings of "New York values." He literally had Cruz clapping for him before he was half done.

10:20 PM: "Muslim friends"

10:21 PM: As dark as it may be, Trump understands, breathes this language perfectly. We have to stop being stupid. People are laughing at us. It hits all the sensitive points: weakness, humiliation, strong and weak, dominating and dominated.

10:23 PM: "I want security for this country." Clear.

10:25 PM: Not perfect, not a lot I agree with. But Kasich, albeit very conservative in the 1990s, is basically a throwback to the pre-Bush43 GOP. An actual center-right party.

10:28 PM: Cruz calls President an "apologist for radical Islamic terrorism."

10:32 PM: Textiles and similar industries have been devastated going back decades in South Carolina and support for protectionist policies has run very high. Trump knows his audience here.

10:36 PM: I'm not sure Marco Rubio fully grasps the impact of tariffs.

10:54 PM: This is a truly surreal exchange, a debate over tax policy that 5% of the electorate cares about or understands, about policies that will never happen, judged on the basis of who the ghost of Ronald Reagan agrees with.

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