Drunkblogging Thursday's GOP Debate

The setup tonight.

Florida has 99 GOP delegates up for grabs in a winner-take-all vote next week.

Carson is out -- but CNN reports "multiple sources" say he'll endorse Trump.

Rubio has to win Florida just to stay in the race, but the best polls show him trailing by 7.

Cruz probably needs to win Florida if he's going to have a chance of taking the lead from Trump.

Rubio probably can't win Florida. Cruz can't win Florida without Rubio dropping out, and taking the lion's share of Rubio's support. Rubio shows no sign of dropping, despite some public warnings from his donors. Cruz doesn't have the leverage in Rubio's home state to force Rubio out.

Some polls show Clinton clobbering Trump in the general. Others show Trump couldn't even win against Sanders. Clearly then, Trump is the man to beat tonight -- unless he isn't.

So it looks like another circular firing squad in the making.

Pour yourself something nice while we wait for the curtain to rise.

No need for a big wrap-up tonight -- that will come on Tuesday night after the polls close.

Since I can't hold my breath that long, instead maybe those of us who aren't in one of next week's primary states should take the weekend off from politics and spend a little quality time with friends on family.

See you back in the fight on Monday then?

Closing statements -- a complete waste of their time and ours at this late date.

It may be closer than a lot of people expect, due to some shady poll numbers.

But... yeah, probably.

Are we there yet?

Trump says he's turned down "probably $275 million" in donations.

Dear Marco: Not every answer has to be a SOTU excerpt.

"Believe me, I haven't even started on her yet."

Trump on Hillary.

Well -- why not?

Question to Trump: If you don't have a majority of delegates, would another nominee be legitimate?

Answer: Not really, and something about a "totally random number."

Kasich just outed himself as a math-denier.

Next topic: Brokered convention!

Kasich.

Drink.

"We are here pledging our support to you, not the other way around."

Cruz just ripped Trump's loyalty oath.

Guy has the correct take here.

Trump again going into Grownup Mode talking about the assault on a protestor at one of his rallies.

But he needs to condemn this kind of thing explicitly, rather than just saying "I do not condone" once or twice, while excusing "anger" again and again in the same answer.

Trump calls Putin "a strong leader."

He's right you know.

Neither was Cruz, was he?

Now Jake wants to know what Kasich would say to the mayor of Miami, who didn't endorse him like he did Rubio and...

Tapper's usually great, but this section is so forced and awful that it makes me want to chew off my own elbows.

"America's not a planet; it's a country."

Rubio explaining a simple thing to Jake Tapper, who keeps pressing him on climate change.

Annnnd we're on to climate change.

Rubio has been strong in early voting, and he's made a strong play tonight for election day voters in Miami.

Florida might just be winnable for him.

Cruz agrees he would "reverse course and break diplomatic relations with Cuba."

"We have to make a good deal."

Drink.

Rubio just ripped Obama's Cuba policy a new one, assuming the already giant one had room for another one.

Thing is, Kasich was a damn fine congressman -- almost libertarian on domestic policy but still strong on defense.

I don't know where that Kasich went.

First time I've heard "shock and awe" since about 2004.

And of course it's Kasich, so drink.

Wow. Cruz on fire on fighting ISIS.

I told you it's a killing word.

Kasich.

Drink.

For all of Trump's assurances about his negotiation skills, it's Cruz and Rubio sounding like they understand Israel and Palestine.

Nice to hear Cruz stand up for Egypt's government. It isn't a nice government, but it is a necessary government.

Glad I wasn't the only one thinking that.

Trump getting booed for saying he's more pro-Israel than anyone else on this stage.

That's a cheap boo.

Cruz does this thing where he gives an applause line, rushes into his next sentence as if he isn't expecting the applause, then stops and mock-modestly acknowledges the applause he was expecting.

For a guy who doesn't always appear very comfortable on the stump, it's a very neat trick.

Trump asked how he'd target civilians without breaking US and international law.

He isn't answering.

There's a case to be made for changing the laws, but he isn't making it.

"I'm not interested in being politically correct, I'm interested in being correct."

Rubio again, nailing it.

I lost track of the tweet, but somebody on Twitter said it was a tag team match of Rubio and Cruz vs Trump. I'd just add that while it is that, it's much more polite and serious than any tag team match you'd see from WWE.

I love these framing shots, where Rubio is answering on the left side of the screen, or it's Cruz talking on the right -- but either way it's Trump frowning in the middle.

To Trump: Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims hate us?

"I mean a lot of them!"

Awesome answer.

The first rule of threats is, you don't admit that they're merely threats.

"Don't call my bluff."

I swear Trump just indicated he'd impose a curfew on Chinese goods.

Yes, a curfew.

Up next: Double-secret probation?

Smoot-Hawley is a killing word.

Trump's combover and eyebrows have merged to form one super wave which, if released, could create a Fukushima-size tsunami.

Kasich.

Drink.

"I can't believe how civil it's been up here."

Trump going back to Grownup Mode, and again it suits him.

This isn't Cruz's crowd, but he's got some of them riled up enough to make a big sound.

Cruz hit Trump for sounding like Clinton on entitlements.

Trump is NOT self-funding his campaign.

He's lending it cash, which will be repaid by donors as soon as he's secured the nomination.

There's nothing wrong with that, but the lie wears thin.

Rubio is my least favorite candidate on this stage. His every initial impulse on a new issue makes him sound like a Progressive, and don't even get me started on his immigration not-so-sleight-of-hand.

But damn is he solid on Social Security.

Trump: "We take care of the world," indicating we're spending too much on defense.

The very next second he says he'd increase defense spending.

I need another drink.

Crap.

Just minutes after praising Trump for acting like a grownup, he punts on Social Security reform.

"Anyone who says Social Security can stay the way it is is lying."

Rubio, speaking the hard truth.

Entitlement reform might be my Number One issue, and nobody is taking it seriously.

Trump makes it official that Ben Carson will endorse him tomorrow.

And much to his credit, Trump really is in his best Grownup Mode tonight. The campaign had telegraphed that he'd get back to that after taking a few debates off for Kid Trump, but he's living up to it.

I've been saying this for years.

Remarkably free of fireworks so far tonight.

Is everyone just resigned to Trump winning Florida?

Trump is in Grownup Mode tonight.

It suits him, but I wonder how long it will last.

"I'd be maybe running for President of Croatia if it wasn't for immigration."

Kasich, giving maybe the best reason yet for building a wall. A maybe for filling the oceans with extra sharks.

I'm saving those for later.

Cruz: "Trade and immigration are interwoven and hurting the workingman and woman."

The mood is populist, and all the candidates have embraced the mood.

Same question to Rubio, who stuttered at first but then the Speech-O-Matic™ kicked into high speed.

To Trump: Why do you make all your stuff in China?

"Because nobody knows the system better than me."

Indeed -- you have to give that one to the Kelo King.

In this huge three-way battle of egos and delegates, the first question goes to Kasich. About trade.

CNN has done this every time -- given Kasich far more stage time than his polls say he should get.

I'm glad that after waiting 30 minutes for the debate to start, we still have to listen to another round of opening statements.

She left out "brush up on your Latin declensions for common nouns."

Hmm... CNN' feed died just as Rubio walked on stage.

Bear with me a moment.

Kasich has his Nixon walk down.

I understand a debate will be held tonight.

I always check in early, but CNN has burned us all too many times.

I don't ask for much.

But when the RNC says "fewer debates" than 2012, I expect there to be fewer debates. When CNN says "8:30PM Eastern," I expect the eleventy-billionth debate to start at 8:30PM Eastern.

Maybe this will get some play tonight.

Just realized I forgot to mention Kasich in the intro, so let's shorthand this.

Kasich... yadda yadda yadda... win Ohio, become Veep.

Glass is topped off, ice bucket is loaded... we're one commercial break away from what might be the last four-man debate in this race.

And let's not forget that the US Virgin Islands voted today.