As I said in my previous post, this was a pretty poorly run debate. But that’s media criticism. The real question is how it will affect the race. Jeb Bush needed to get back into this campaign. And he absolutely didn’t do that. I thought his attack on Marco Rubio was pretty strong. But after that, I’m not sure what happened to him. Maybe he took a nap. I’m not sure. It’s really hard to see how he can hold on to any level of confidence from establishment Republicans at this point. He just doesn’t seem to have it in him. Not that he was a leader of the pack in the first place. But he really needed to change the equation. He didn’t.
I think Trump was basically fine, not good or bad. Carson was somewhat more coherent than in past debates.
The big surprise to me was that the bill John Boehner pushed through Congress to basically deprive the far right of all the opportunities for legislative hostage taking barely came up. It came up a bit. But it was not a driving theme in the debate. That surprises me because it seemed like a great opportunity for candidates to cater to the right wing base voters who dominate the GOP primaries. But it was also good news for the GOP because there was a real danger here that the primaries got tangled up with the intra-party confrontation in the House, which could be seriously damaging for the eventual nominee.
The final thing is Marco Rubio. He seemed on the defensive and without terribly good answers to the senate absenteeism charges. As I’ve said, I think Rubio is really the one to watch simply by a process of elimination. I didn’t think he came off that well. But the audience didn’t seem to agree with me. He kept getting ovations from the audience. I’m curious to hear what people think about how he did.
Finally, Kasich was great. Actually knows what he’s talking about, has a decent argument about his record in Ohio and called out the nonsense a lot of the other candidates are spewing. But let’s get real: this is a GOP primary race. I can’t really see him getting into the top tier.
I think the only clear takeaway is that the window is closing on the Bush campaign. And it may already have closed.