Short answer — I dunno.
Okay, I’m being a tad disingenuous, but only a tad. Like most humans, I have my preferences. But…
Well… come with me into the Spin Room, tovarich. Right after the debate the pundits, semi-pundits, reporters or any other Tom, Dick or Harriet with a press pass, drift in. Swarms of them really. Almost none of them say much, dare to assert a winner or winners for the evening, for fear of being wrong or embarrassing themselves. So they snicker instead. It’s not a lot different from a cocktail party after a Hollywood premiere, everyone congratulating the filmmakers with false smiles while someone whispers in your ear, “What a bunch of crap.”
Meanwhile the punditocracy, or the wannabe punditocracy, group around the spin doctors beneath signs like “FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATOR FOR CRUZ” or “SECOND WIFE OF HUCKABEE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR” (okay, not that, but you know what I mean.) The spin doctors then blather on about how their candidate just delivered the greatest speech since the Sermon on the Mount. And within twenty seconds you’re wondering why you’re standing there and why they don’t have any beers mixed in with Diet Cokes.
But someone, or ones, did win the debate and since I’m supposed to be the Mad Voter, I guess I should reveal my picks. But in this election most of all, that may prove to be irrelevant. We all see everything simultaneously almost no matter where we are. Why would any pundit or commentator know more than his or her readers or viewers? I mean they (we) can pretend we do — it’s good business, after all — but we’re as clueless as anybody else. Don’t believe me? Well, check the comments.
WINNERS: Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. They both sounded smart and authoritative, assuming that matters. (It should.) Carly got in some zingers and I think by the time the third debate comes along, she may have expectation problems, the bar will be so high. (Cruz is supposed to be the hot-shot debater, but he looks fairly ineffectual by comparison.) Rubio — although I know this freaks out some commenters — is likely the future of the Republican Party, either now or in 2020. Fellas, get used to it.
SECOND PLACE: Chris Christie — more energy than even Trump himself. He’s fun. Not always sure he has that much interesting to say, however. And enough of … “This election isn’t about me. It’s about you” nonsense. Oh, come on. You’re a politician, Chris.
PUSH (meaning neutral performance): Frontrunners Trump and Carson didn’t hurt themselves. They seemed to be in a holding pattern. (Carson’s not a born debater anyway.) When you’re ahead, that’s okay to a degree, but be warned — it only works for so long. As sports fans know, playing not to lose eventually creates trouble. But for now, it’s full Trump Steam ahead! After all, he won the Drudge poll on the night by his usual landslide. (CAVEAT: So did RON Paul almost every time.) Cruz and Huckabee probably didn’t hurt themselves either.
UNDERACHIEVERS: Jeb — still struggling. Showed some energy (to coin a term) when Trump attacked his brother. Maybe Jeb should join the Mafia. He could use a little Corleone. Walker too is having trouble breaking through. It-s hard to remember what he said.
DOWN MARKET: Kasich and Rand Paul really hurt themselves tonight. It’s not so serious for Rand who is barely clinging to his poll position anyway, but Kasich had scored at the previous debate. This time he seemed like some old-line State Department guy in his response on Iran. Earth to Kasich: Old-line State Department guys are part of the problem, not part of the solution. And working with our allies on Iran means China and Russia. How’s that working out? Later, looking very nervous, Kasich tried to dig his way out of the hole while being interviewed by Hannity. It didn’t work. John’s in trouble.
And speaking of trouble, wouldn’t it be great if three or four of these folks, not to mention the four in the second-tier debate, dropped out already? I mean there’s a lot of money being wasted here, not to mention our time. These ten men and one woman debates are rather tedious. How about 6 or even 5 men and a woman? Twelve, count ’em, twelve Republican debates. Let’s make them real debates. And who knows — Hugh Hewitt might even get to ask a question or two this time.