The overcard Fox News debate was amusing to watch. Did anyone win? I don’t know. Trump is in the lead in the Drudge poll, but Frank Luntz’s focus group vilified him (not Drudge readers, apparently). They liked Huckabee and Ben Carson, who gave a beguiling closing speech. I suspect the Republican masses may have been turned off by Trump’s refusal to pledge no third-party run, but we’ll need a day or two to find out. I have to confess I am beginning to find him a bit tedious, like a vaudeville act that repeats one too many times.
But who knows how I and anyone else will feel tomorrow? That’s the odd nature of these campaigns. They swing so fast. Your opinions keep changing — especially because the policy distinctions between the many candidates are relatively small. (Marco Rubio said during the debate the Republicans were blessed by God to have so many good candidates while the Democrats didn’t even have one.) Style and feeling count more than we think. Most of our reactions to candidates are instinctual. There’s a great quote reflecting this from Hugo von Hofmannsthal above the desk of my friend writer David Freeman: “Politics is magic. He who knows how to summon the forces from the deep, him will they follow.”
Who summoned the forces Thursday night? I thought Cruz and Rubio did well, Walker not so much. His answer on the abortion question didn’t make sense. I’m still not sure he has the intellectual horsepower. The interchanges between Christie and Paul on the NSA were spirited. I’m with Christie on this one, by the way. He did well in general, and I say that never having been a fan.
But the person who really summoned the forces on Thursday was by far Carly Fiorina, who appeared in the earlier debate for also-rans. She was so good her ghost hung over the second debate. She was even cited at the top of the overcard debate by Megyn Kelly and later they replayed Fiorina’s forceful response on Iran for comment from the top ten. Watching that replay, she easily looked more impressive than any of them.
So we wait to see what this all adds up to. Will there be any sort of winnowing out? Will Carly jump into the top ten or even top five? Who knows? I notice I did not mention Jeb Bush. That’s an indication of something. He did well enough, I suppose. But he gives off the sensation that he doesn’t really want to be there, doesn’t look like he’s having much fun. It’s more of an obligation.
Watching the other pundits discuss the event in the spin room, everyone has a different opinion about who did well, except the DNC’s risible Deborah Wasserman Schultz who of course likes no one. (What will she say when Hillary gets indicted? That will be fun to watch.) I am reminded how much politics is like the movies. And I’m not just talking about the old joke about Washington being Hollywood for ugly people. I’m talking about William Goldman’s famous line from Adventures in the Screen Trade — “Nobody knows anything.” That certainly fits politics.