Drunkblogging Thursday's GOP Debate

Here we go -- the last debate that matters.

Or does it matter, given that Trump is competitive with Cruz in native Texas and blowing away Rubio in native Florida?

Will Rubio take the gloves off? And if he does, will he take them off eight times?

Will Cruz aim his laser beams at Trump or at Rubio?

What are the other candidates' names again?

Pour a large glass of whatever you're having, and we'll find out the answers soon enough.

I'll do a mini-wrap tonight, and call in hungover tomorrow morning.

Forget Carson and Kasich. They're good men, whatever you might think of their policies, but neither belonged on that stage.

Cruz did well, but probably not well enough to reverse his downward trajectory in the polls. I've long been a supporter of his, albeit an increasingly reluctant one, but he needed to do more tonight than he did.

Rubio shocked the hell out of me. Two, three, four times on the drunkblog and on Twitter I found myself asking "Where was THIS Rubio before?" I asked myself that even more times privately in my thoughts. Whatever you might think of his policies (I'm not a fan), tonight's Rubio came out swinging -- and connected again and again. His performance comes at the perfect time, too, just as he's gaining some traction in a few polls here and there.

But was it enough?

We might not know until Super Tuesday just days from now, and we'll know for sure when the primary vote moves to Florida shortly after.

Which brings us to Trump.

Trump did his Trump thing, and we all know what that is by now. He took some big hits tonight, a couple from Cruz and the rest from Rubio. But -- and this is the vital thing -- he never really lost his stride. That invisible Trumpness wasn't punctured, at least not in a way that appeared on his face, where it could have shattered the hopes of the Devoted.

Trump has so changed the rules of the game that in order to beat Trump, you really have to make him look beaten, to recognize his own loss.

If such a thing is possible, I can't commit to saying we saw anything like that on CNN.

More broadly, what I found most interesting other than the Rubio-vs-Trump exchanges was the Man Who Wasn't There, our Thursday Night Godot.

Where was Barack Obama? Except for some nearly pro-forma foreign policy references (where one can hardly ignore POTUS), there was hardly anything to be heard about our sitting (golfing?) President. Even Rubio's Stump-Speech-O-Matic failed to kick in the typical eleventeen references to our "lame, feeble, consumptive duck."

And this might just be the best news we got out of this debate: While the Democrats fuss endlessly about this and that about Obama's legacy, the Republicans are looking to the future.

I hope you'll drink to that.

I have.

Closing statements.

By longstanding tradition, this is when I leave my desk for a moment and pour a nightcap.

He's not a details guy.

Trump really was asked why he won't build a wall to guard us against the Great White North.

Coo coo coo coo coo coo coo coo.

Cruz and Rubio seem to be catching on, but it also seems to be too little and far too late.

I'm torn here on the Apple vs FBI thing, but I still have to come down on Apple's side. The All Writs Act can't be this broad, or there's nothing a court can't compel.

WTF, Wolk cut off Cruz AGAIN versus Trump.

[MORE CROSSTALK]

[CROSSTALK]

"Falsey accusing someone of lying is itself a lie."

Cruz, deftly describing Trump's MO towards critics.

"This guy's a choke artist and this guy's a liar."

Trump on Rubio and Cruz.

He's not totally wrong.

Followed by Carson chiming in with "Could somebody attack me, please?"

No. Why?

It's what Drudge does these days. You should trust a Drudge poll like you trust a Drudge link to InfoWars.

"Every day John Kerry wasn't appointed, Hillary Clinton was still Secretary of State."

-Rubio

Heh.

"If these politicians went to the beach and didn't do a thing."

Trump thinks he's criticizing foreign policy, but really he's doing so, so much more.

Love Trump calling Kerry out for his mock ceasefire in Syria.

Dr. Carson, I say this because I respect you so much:

Please. Stop.

Please.

I'm not posting this to endorse Rubio, but I do endorse the sentiment that he has, indeed, brought it tonight.

Rubio is my least favorite candidate on that stage (except for Kasich) but he is, if I may borrow a phrase from my five-year-old, really bringin' it tonight.

I'm having fun watching Rubio tell Trump how to negotiate.

I'm not kidding here. If Trump thinks Hamas or the PA can be dealt with like a potential business partner, then he's deluded.

And based on Trump's next answer... he's deluded.

Oh no!

Cruz just said "Let me be clear" and seven years of horror mixed with boredom (surely the Germans have a word for that) came flooding back.

You know what? Trump talking Israel sounds honest and (nearly) humble.

"The size of my company, which is very, very large."

Trump, talking about something other than his fingers.

Well... yeah.

Damn!

Trump came back with an attack on both Clintons, and it was lovely.

I know I mentioned already that the best part of Candidate Trump would be watching him vivisect Hillary -- but I should have mentioned Bill in that, too.

Cruz on the attack, wondering how Trump and prosecute Hillary when they're six-figures tight.

Trump... goes to the poll numbers.

Yuge, luxurious poll numbers.

For a guy who likes to throw around the word "classy," Trump has shown none tonight. Zero. Big loser!

Rubio tackling entitlement reform and the fact that debt and "entitlements" will soon consume 83% of our budget.

"It's a question of when not if we have a debt crisis."

"I get audited every year."

Trump, explaining why he hasn't released his tax returns.

BTW, I don't think anybody should have to release their tax returns.

"Waste, fraud, and abuse."

Trump's plan to close the deficit sounds exactly -- exactly -- like Obama's plan to save you $2,500 a year on health insurance.

It's ugly for sure.

"It is going to destroy our economy greatly."

Trump, on ♡bamaCare!!!.

Greatly, folks. Greatly.

Blitzer tried to cut of Cruz yet again, but got shamed out of it.

Yep. If this isn't the lede on every debate story, they're reporting it wrong.

Pretty sure Kasich's upper body is being operated by remote control by the ghost of Dick Nixon.

Kasich talking right now is like getting up to make a Top Ramen in the middle of the hottest sex of your life.

Rubio calling Trump out for all his endless-loop Trumpisms.

I have to ask again: Where was this Rubio last month?

Big hoots and hollers as Rubio and Trump go at it.

"You may not be aware of this, Donald, since you don't follow this stuff closely."

Rubio, explaining ...a lot of everything... to Trump.

"The insurance companies are making a fortune on every single thing they do."

Except for selling ♡bamaCare!!! plans, which is what Trump was referring to.

Oy.

"I was referring to that very strongly."

Is there anything Trump doesn't claim to do very strongly?

"A somewhat strong conservative."

Trump, describing...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Ronald Reagan.

At this point, even Carson and Kasich have no idea what they're doing on that stage.

Heh.

Cruz on the Supreme Court is going there, very strongly.

I kid with the wording, but this is Cruz in his comfort zone.

"I've been there, and I've been there very strongly."

Half the time I don't know what Trump is saying, and neither do you. And neither does he.

Isn't that always the game?

"With his passing the court is now hanging in the balance."

Cruz on Scalia.

Make it six.

"I've employed tens of thousands of Hispanics... they're incredible people."

Trump, being Trump.

Sorry for the delay -- CNN's feed died for a couple minutes. Bear with me while I get my bearings back...

Cruz needs to learn how to fake warmth.

I can't believe we're still talking about one executive order.

"I guess there's a statute of limitations on lies."

Rubio, twisting the blade into Trump.

Where was this Rubio last fall? Or even last month?

Awesome fireworks between Rubio and Trump -- moving too fast to cover.

"It's a fake university!"

Rubio has been reading Rick Wilson, methinks.

Finally.

"If you build the wall the way you built Trump Tower, you'll build it with illegal immigrants." -Rubio

Heh.

Oh. Good. A trade war.

Get ready to pay $1,200 for your next iPhone or Galaxy.

To Trump: How will you get Mexico to pay for the wall?

"I will, and the wall just got ten feet taller."

Great line, but Trump complaining about an F-bomb is like me complaining about a dry gin martini.

Carson says "everything we do should be fair."

Huge, if true.

WTF, Wolf?

Trump attacked cruz on the loan thing, then wouldn't let Cruz reply to give John Effing Kasich some stage time?

Wolf Blitzer is the Candy Crowley of 2016.

Trump to Cruz: "You don't have one Republican Senator backing you."

In this climate, I'm not sure that's a very effective insult.

I understand there are candidates on this stage other than Cruz, Rubio, and Trump. But you couldn't get me to swear to that.

Cruz going after Trump now as a reality show host, and for supporting "open border politicians."

Damn.

Rubio slammed Trump for being the "only one on this stage" to hire illegals.

Trump interrupts with "I'm the only one on this stage to hire anybody."

Dear Republicans: Stop debating Mitt. He lost.

Rubio went after Trump's employment record... and totally buried the attack. No zip.

Rubio: "Before we do anything on immigration, we're going to secure the border."

Schumer: "MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!," probably.

Trump with the Sheriff Joe love.

I wonder if today's poll showing 80% of Latino voters are opposed to Trump explains the opening line of questions about illegal immigrants.

Question to Trump about his Deportation Force.

Trump... starts off by pitting Cruz against Rubio.

Genius.

The one great thing about Nominee Trump is watching him vivisect Queen Cacklepants on national TV.

Opening statements.

Feel free to tune this out, while I pay attention for you by refilling my drink.

My grandfather defined "conversation" as "an unrelated series of alternating monologs."

See also: "political debate."

Weird response for Trump coming on stage. This must be a Cruz audience in Texas tonight.

The H.W. Bushes look awesome.

"SEE THE HARD DEBATE ACTION ON TWO TONS OF DIRT THIS THURSDAY THURSDAY THURSDAY!!!"

Why does CNN feel the need to pump these things up so crudely?

Bottled water?

Amateurs.

Dang. I so wanted to here Anderson Cooper drop an f-bomb talking about the former president of Mexico.

The More You Know™