If Donald Trump wins the GOP nomination, the Republican party as we know it is over.
In tonight’s debate, Trump blamed George W. Bush for 9/11 happening on his watch and confirmed that he would have impeached him for invading Iraq. Polls show that both George W. Bush and the Iraq war are still very popular with Republicans. But if everything we’ve seen over the last nine months holds, it seems likely that Trump will get 30% of the vote in South Carolina no matter what he says.
Jeb Bush was high energy tonight and took every swing he could at Trump. He was fighting like it was his last chance. He even took shots at John Kasich. If this version of Bush had been running for the last year, it might be a very different race today. It was his strongest debate by far.
Ted Cruz stayed away from a much-anticipated battle with Trump until the last half hour when it turned into one of the nastiest exchanges of the debates so far. Cruz attacked Trump hard, but Trump won. Cruz also went after Marco Rubio hard on immigration but didn’t win that exchange either. Perhaps Cruz was thrown off his game at the very beginning when John Dickerson corrected him on facts about Supreme Court nominations.
Rubio was better tonight than the last debate — a low bar, of course — but he still talks on 1.5X speed. It makes him sound like… yes, a robot. He landed some good punches and generally avoided damage by staying out of a fight with Trump.
Kasich is getting better at these debates but unless he has a stronger finish in South Carolina, it’s hard to see where he goes. He seems like a nice guy but he’s simply out of step with his party on too many issues.
Ben Carson needs to end his campaign now. He adds nothing to these debates with his repeated call outs for his website.
The bottom line: I’m not sure any candidate won this debate. It was like, as First Read foreshadowed last month, the final scene in Reservoir Dogs “where everyone has their weapons pointed at each other and, well, a lot of people are going to die.”
One final thought: The audience was an abomination. Letting them hoot and holler after every answer made the debate feel like it was taking place in a Roman coliseum. It was a total embarrassment for the Republican party.Save to Favorites