The tenth Republican debate Thursday night in Houston was dramatic, filled with alarms and excursions, elaborate insults and gestures, calling to mind a Shakespeare play. But unfortunately for most of the candidates on stage, it may have been Much Ado About Nothing. Or to reference one of the Bard’s greatest political works (Macbeth), “…full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.”
Nevertheless, it sure was fun to watch. Marco Rubio showed he could give as good as he gets. Where was this guy when Chris Christie came after him in New Hampshire? If he had punched back with half the force he did at Trump Thursday, he might have sent the portly New Jersey governor spinning around like “The Little King” looking for his mother.
And the Florida senator came armed with some good opposition research. Trump used “Polish workers” to build his Tower? Who knew? (Now I know whom to blame for that wretched Starbucks on the third floor.) And Trump University was evidently not as successful as Prager University.
But who actually won the debate? According to the Drudge poll, it was roughly 70% Trump, 20% Cruz and 17% Rubio (depending on when you check in), with the other two scouring from crumbs. Of course, that’s always the result of the Drudge poll, no matter what happens. If they held a debate with Thai puppets speaking Serbian, it would come out the same.
The problem is, the Drudge poll is actually more correct than not, a little excessively pro-Trump, but not a lot, as we have seen.
So my guess is this debate did not move the needle significantly. Rubio may have helped himself somewhat. He’s been a good finisher of late. But it’s probably not enough. (He is cementing a big place in the Republican future, however.)
But all was not lost. We did learn some semi-interesting facts…or factoids. Trump apparently gets audited a lot. (Okay, that’s not a big surprise.) And Ben Carson was never audited in his life until he made that nasty speech about Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast and then the IRS started auditing him for everything. (Okay, that’s no surprise either, but it does confirm one of the worst aspects of the current administration — and that’s saying something.)
Kasich did pretty well and was able to appear the adult in a kindergarten mud fight, if you care about that. (I vacillate.) Ben Carson complained about not getting enough questions, as usual. Trump played the grand seigneur and backed up the doctor on that one, not that I imagine Donald’s losing too much sleep over it.
I didn’t think it was a particularly good night for Ted Cruz. Perhaps he was nervous about the upcoming Texas primary on Super Tuesday. He should be. He loses in that one and he’s Texas Toast. Rubio’s finished if he doesn’t make it in Florida two weeks later.
I’m far from the first to say these two guys are under tremendous time pressure. Jonah Goldberg’s been floating a Rubio-Cruz or Cruz-Rubio ticket to stop Trump. I dunno. Two guys five months apart in age with pretty much the same experience trying to decide who’s number one and who’s number two doesn’t augur well. And I doubt they could do a timeshare, even if it were legal, which it is undoubtedly not. Could they flip a coin? It worked for Hillary Clinton in Iowa, evidently. But talk about a diminished presidency before it started…
In any case, when they debate again in Detroit on March 3rd, I suggest they all wear boxing gloves. It would be good for a laugh anyway.