I won’t give my usual debate post-mortem because I did not see the debate in its entirety. Due to a previous commitment, I only caught the last half hour of the debate. I have subsequently watched much of it online and here are my observations.
1. Marco Rubio Got Bloodied Again
For the second debate in a row, Marco Rubio got bloodied. Last time around, it didn’t affect him so much as he finished a strong third in Iowa. I’m not so sure lightning strikes twice. Chris Christie popped him hard and his counterpunches weren’t particularly effective. Christie spent much of the night comparing Rubio to Barack Obama (i.e. first term Senator). Rubio should have said, “During this campaign, you have called Barack Obama feckless. Did you call him feckless after you hugged him during Hurricane Sandy?” But Rubio isn’t a street fighter and tonight it might have cost him.
2. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich All Had Good Nights
The one former governor and two current governors all turned in good performances. I described Christie a moment ago. Kasich had his best debate since the first GOP debate in August. Meanwhile, Bush gets better in every debate. He really shone against Donald Trump on the question of eminent domain. In the case of Bush and Kasich it might be too little, too late. If any of the three get traction in the next 72 hours, my money is on Christie.
3. Ted Cruz Wasn’t Much of a Factor in The Debate
The Iowa Caucus winner didn’t bring much to the table tonight. His hellfire and brimstone manner doesn’t do much in New Hampshire. His explanation regarding his campaign’s snafu vis a vis the alleged report that Ben Carson was going to drop out didn’t do him any favors.
4. Ben Carson Isn’t Going Anywhere
In his closing remarks, Ben Carson said he wasn’t going anywhere. Truer words have never been spoken. He might have some sympathy with regard to the Iowa debacle, but I doubt that sympathy translates into votes.
5. Donald Trump is a Buffoon, But Will Still Probably Win NH
Jeb Bush absolutely made Donald Trump look foolish on the question of eminent domain. Trump tried to compare his use of eminent domain to that of the Keystone Pipeline. A large project that crosses state borders is going to involve eminent domain. Throwing a senior citizen out of her home so he can erect a parking lot is an abuse of eminent domain. After the audience took Bush’s side in the argument, Trump accuses the audience of being donors drawing booes. It’s every bit as insulting to New Hamsphire voters as not showing up at the debate was to Iowa voters. But given that Trump’s opposition is so fractured, he will probably win NH despite his buffoonery.
The vote in New Hampshire is less than 72 hours away. The next GOP debate is scheduled to take place a week from now in South Carolina and will air on CBS with John Harwood moderating. Don’t be surprised if there’s more confrontation between the moderator’s panel and the candidates a la CNBC.