Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

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.

Live coverage of the main event starts at 8 pm.

We generally don't think of Republicans as the folks to go in for alternative lifestyles or outre sexual practices (at least not openly). But here we are, mere hours away from round two of the televised ritual humiliation of what were until a few months ago the top contenders for the Republican nomination - and at the hands of a former reality TV star with an exalted hairdo, who sometimes goes by his first name only. What's surprising is how similar the mood going into tonight's debate seems to be to the one going into the first debate on Fox back last month.

The setting seems to be this: Donald Trump is at the head of the pack. That's unnatural. He doesn't deserve to be and should not be. Someone has to destroy him. Last time Fox News took it upon itself to be the executioner and I think we can all agree that it failed spectacularly, though it took a few days for many commentators to realize that was what happened.

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Over the years, both as an observer of politics and as a publisher, I've seen numerous cases where a big advocacy campaign comes together which clearly lacks the ability to spend all the money it's raised. You'll see adds run in California against a politician from New York. Or you'll see TV spots running in time slots or on shows that are totally unrelated to the target demographic. Most campaigns - whether they're advocacy, election campaigns or branding - are never lucky enough to have this problem. But the amount of messaging or advertising you can do or buy on any given topic is finite. You can so saturate a given market or audience that you not only move past a point of diminishing returns but actually run out of things to buy. That was clearly the case in what has turned out to be the colossal failure of the many tens of million dollar campaign to stop the Iran nuclear deal.

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