Carly had a terrific night. Her handling of the Trump insult of her looks was pitch perfect, understated, but pointed. Her answer on Planned Parenthood was moving. She was a little too defensive on her HP record–understandably since it’s a vulnerability–but counterpunched effectively against Trump in that exchange. Her worst moment was when she made it obvious that Christie had gotten under her skin with his dig that average workers could care less about her and Trump arguing about their business records. Her concluding statement was very canned, but well done. I’d be shocked if she doesn’t keep rising in the polls.
Rubio was excellent. Everything he said was well-received. He knows the issues and is a smooth, relatable communicator. Of course, he got good reviews last time, but didn’t get a bump in the polls, perhaps because he didn’t have one signature moment. He didn’t tonight, either. But it’s clear that he is going to excel in these forums.
#share#Bush had a tough time grappling with Trump. Even when he had cutting points to make about Trump, even when he had cause to be righteously indignant over Trump’s attacks on his wife and brother, he couldn’t quite pull it off. He had nice moments–his reminder that W. kept us safe, his jokes about his mom probably being disappointed in his admission he smoked pot and about “everready” being his prospective Secret Service name because it’s high energy. But he didn’t show mastery. The contrast with how Mitt Romney manhandled Rick Perry in the debates and Bush’s inability to wrestle Trump to the ground is striking.
#related#As for the others: Carson seemed much more like he was during most of the last debate, without the strong finish; Cruz was good, although a number of his answers got cut off at the end by Jake Tapper and I’m not sure he made a big impression; Christie was crisp and forceful; Kasich seems in a rush to occupy the Jon Huntsman space in the race; Walker was fine, but didn’t stand out; Huckabee was his fluid, folksy self, but there don’t seem to be anything transformative; Rand Paul isn’t much of a factor.
Finally, Trump. He wasn’t any better than last time, and he presumably won’t be able to spin a narrative of victimhood coming out of this debate. One hopes for his sake that there is someone around him who can approach him tomorrow and say, “Sir, I regret to inform you that you actually have to know something to run for president and that I have no choice to recommend that you read a policy briefing or two.” By the end of the three hours of his usual array of insults and airy, seat-of-the-pants answers, he felt a little tired and diminished, but who knows how it will affect his standing?