Just a quick note on last night’s debate.
It was easily the best and most substantive debate we’ve had so far. The absence of Trump and presence of Megyn Kelly meant pointed tough questions for the candidates. Several of them did massively better. Rand Paul showed why I always liked him, giving an excellent answer on criminal justice reform and landing a few solid blows on Cruz. Bush looked better than he had in months, although it’s probably too little too late.
The big loser, in my mind, was Ted Cruz. Trump’s bloviating narcissism had the effect, in early debates, of making Cruz look good. Without that distraction, Cruz’s big flaws as a candidate were on display. He did a poor job explaining his flip-flop on immigration. The other candidates attacked him on various issues and were effective in doing so. This was his chance to make some headway on Donald Trump and he didn’t.
Really, this was the campaign we should have been having for the last four months, with Paul, Christie, Cruz, Rubio and Bush fighting it out for the heart of the party. It really highlighted just how badly the Trump Show has damaged the GOP’s chances.
The consensus this morning is that Trump was a big winner because he wasn’t there to get pinned on the issues while his rivals attacked each other. I’m not so sure, mainly because these are the same people who’ve been pronouncing Trump dead for the last year. If they think he did well, he must have done poorly. The caucuses are next week, so we’ll soon find out. But my suggestion for the future, if the GOP wants to recover, is to let the Donald sit out every future debate. They are way better off without him.