Last night, the GOP hosted their first debate since Iowa’s caucus and the last one before the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. Mercifully, finally, they made the change they should’ve made weeks ago:
That was the only thing the ABC debate moderators got right, as they somehow bungled the entrance.
Once the candidates finally assembled, the folks at home could see that the field had narrowed to seven: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump. Carly Fiorina was excluded, but given the confusion, she probably could’ve snuck in.
ABC moderator (and Clinton Foundation donor) Martha Raddatz started out by trying to get the candidates to attack each other.
Trump got a question about whether he was temperamentally suited for the Presidency.
The moderators encouraged Carson and Cruz to argue over Cruz’s campaign tactics in Iowa, a subject no voter cares about.
They finally got their wish for LOUD NOISES in a clash between Christie and Rubio.
Readers of this blog will know I’m a Rubio supporter, but the early minutes looked bad for our man. The moderators drew blood, and it was the high point of the night for them.
Raddatz shifted the focus to Cruz and quibbled with him over his answer about immigration.
Rubio drew some pointed questions on the same topic.
Christie smelled blood, and jumped in again.
Mary Katharine Ham, the one moderator not pushing Democratic talking points, was finally allowed to join the conversation with a question to Trump about healthcare. He answered it…kind of.
They talked about eminent domain. Trump claimed it was good, because it let us build roads and pipelines. Bush suggested that building a road is not the same as seizing an old lady’s house to build a limousine parking lot for a private casino.
Jeb won the crowd over, so Trump attacked them, too.
Trump was asked to explain how he is a conservative.
Rubio jumped in with a stronger answer, and began to recover from the Christie attacks.
Christie joined the fray with his tried-and-true “Senators talk, Governors work” routine.
On foreign policy, Rubio was on surer ground, and Trump repeated his earlier plan to bomb ISIS’s oil, then seize ISIS’s oil.
The moderators brought out a leftover question from 2008, and asked about torture:
There was a question of the type reserved for Republicans: how would you “change the tone” in Washington?
On drugs, and specifically heroin, Cruz had a rare humanizing moment.
Carson and Christie got a question about the emerging threat from the Zika virus.
Another blast from the past came in a question about the military draft.
Rubio and Bush talked about the Veterans Administration problems.
On an abortion question, Rubio defended his pro-life beliefs and questioned why the Democrats’ positions aren’t examined as closely as Republicans’.
Christie’s more moderate position left the viewers cold.
The candidates made their final pitch to the voters.
Nobody had a great night, and opinions varied on who could be said to have triumphed.
This was my favorite, though: