My personal assessment of the GOP debate – Main Event:
Ted Cruz (Talking time – 17:04) Was. On. Fire. Very strong attacks on Trump’s positions and record. Had the best line of the night when he said that “Donald has a tenuous relationship with the truth.” Great takes on pointing out that Trump has been part of the effort to get and keep Democrats elected for 40 + years, and his complete lack of a conservative record. His use of the Tag Team dynamic with Rubio really helped elevate him in the debate. He and Rubio had an effective truce in which neither attacked the other, but focused all their efforts on bringing Trump down. Cruz actually got Trump to stop interrupting him twice by asking him to “breathe, Donald, just breathe,” and “count to 10 Donald.” Cruz hit Trump hard for his support and funding of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, which, as Cruz pointed out, weren’t about business as Trump claims, but about politics. Cruz also effectively painted Trump as “being part of the corruption” people (especially Trump supporters) are most angry about. Cruz was very aggressive on highlighting the contrasts between himself and Trump, pointing out the danger of allowing Trump or Clinton to pick the next Supreme Court justice with a great answer on replacing Scalia on the Supreme Court, when he said that “We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that would reverse the Heller decision,” which would eviscerate the Second Amendment. Solid on foreign policy and on rebuilding and strengthening the military.
John Kasich (Talking time – 12:42) did the best he could to take advantage of the winnowing of the field. That being said, he seemed to be completely disconnected from the discussion at hand. His message (as always) was focused on portraying himself as the grown up in the room, and he offered the usual pablum of not fighting and arguing, and his desire to focus on “the issues.” This can come across as uplifting and positive, but also betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the majority of the electorate. Yes, it helped him perform well in the debate as he offered his answers on the policy questions. Sure, it may help him win Ohio, but it does nothing to improve his standing, in the race or with the voters.
Marco Rubio (Talking time – 10:26) came off a bit muted as he is campaigning through a cold. His voice was hoarse and scratchy, and his energy level was markedly lower. Regardless, his attacks on Trump were cutting and had impact. His tag-team effort with Cruz paid off by keeping Trump off balance, getting under his skin early and often, and drawing the majority of Trump’s fire to himself. Rubio did well by highlighting the Trump University scam. His jokes about “yoga” and “flexibility” got lots of laughs at Trump’s expense from the audience. He faces an uphill battle in the fight for Florida, and it seems somewhat unlikely that he will pick up many delegates in the intervening contests.
Donald Trump (Talking time – 24:13) was unhinged. Started the debate by assuring the audience that the size of his penis was “not a problem,” and by repeatedly calling Rubio, “Little Marco.” He was rude, crude, mendacious, misleading and obtuse – all the qualities a normal electorate would seem to actively avoid in a nominee. He even offered and repeated assurances that he will bring the military to heel and make it obey his unlawful orders. Screaming at the top of his lungs, ranting and raving every time he was attacked, regardless of who did it. Absolutely lost it when attacked by Cruz on his liberal record and his financial support of Carter, Kerry, Clinton, Pelosi, Schumer, Reid, et.al, exposing Trump as a non-conservative for over 40 years. Completely unraveled by the tag-team attacks of Cruz and Rubio, this was his worst debate by far.