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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

As we await the beginning of tonight's debate, let's note a gleaming irony. Sanders backers (and O'Malley's backer) have been complaining for months that the DNC kept the number of debates to a minimum and scheduled them at odd times to benefit Hillary Clinton, the most known candidate and prohibitive frontrunner, who has had and continues to have overwhelming establishment support. It's not terribly surprising that the DNC would do this, considering the desire to avoid a lengthy primary season and the near unanimous support she has enjoyed among Democratic elected officials. Doesn't mean it's fair. But it's hardly surprising.

And yet, that mild tipping of the scales now looks like it may be hurting Clinton. Clinton has done quite well in the debates - both in subjective terms (what I or other people might think) in objective terms. She's performed strongly and seen her poll numbers benefit after the debates. That means she'd probably be benefiting from even more debates. She could use a high profile debate right now in fact. But here we are with a 9pm debate on Sunday on a long holiday weekend. Other than scheduling one on New Year's Eve or 3 O'Clock in the morning, it's hard to know how you could limit viewership any more than that.

Marco Rubio says he purchased a gun on Christmas Eve to protect his family from ISIS or other attackers. I'm just going to leave it at that. Not sure more information is necessary.

When I was a small boy my dad and I would watch the great prize fights of the day. Ali v Frazier, Ali v Foreman, Ali v Spinks. Boxing is a terrible, brutal sport. But there is a beauty in watching these greats, often perfectly matched, do battle. Back during the phony war period of the Cruz/Trump confrontation I noted that we may be witnessing a comparable battle of two titans. "That," I wrote, "is one of the many things that makes the current Trump-Cruz phony war so compelling. Trump is baiting Cruz into the same smackdown he's used to eat up Bush, Walker, Fiorina and others. But Cruz won't take the bait. Like two zen masters facing off in a martial arts classic or perhaps two wizards doing battle in The Lord of the Rings, we have an epic confrontation between two masters who have trained for decades in the arts of assholery and bullying. But their powers equally matched, it is a stand off."

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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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