Thursday night, television viewers across America turned off Netflix for the first time in half a decade and tuned into the Republican presidential debates. Most did so because they wanted an excuse to drink an entire case of beer in one sitting, and/or they were looking for an evening’s worth of free entertainment that didn’t involve leaving their homes. But some did it with the hopeful idea that somewhere, among the sixteen billion candidates currently vying for the GOP nomination, that there would be a spark of intelligence that could help resist the desire to extinguish the electoral system altogether and move to a benevolent dictatorship run by Rob Ford.
Frankly, last night, it became apparent that Donald Trump is considering that route, so perhaps America’s needs and Donald’s needs match up. As for the rest of the candidates, well, here’s ten things you need to know about last night’s debate.
1. Carly Fiorina won. And by “won,” I mean “both debates.” She wasted everyone on stage at the “Happy Hour” kids’ table debate, managed to goad the DNC into creating her very own sexist meme, shut down Chris Matthews, and basically Ronda Rousey’ed the whole night. She punched yesterday in the face. Not a single man in the following debate seemed even remotely capable of delivering her knockout performance, and that’s something to be proud of. With a field of sixteen (eighteen? twenty? eighty?), the initial, Fox News debate — on friendly territory — was essential to solidifying your position among the front runners. Fiorina did that without hesitation. Others, in this case perpetual disappointment Rick Perry, spent the time he should have spent preparing for the debate using his surrogates to manage expectations, and made Bobby Jindal look charismatic by comparison, and Bobby Jindal is the human equivalent of notebook paper.
He chose, in the words of an archaic knight in an Indiana Jones movie, poorly.
2. Lindsey Graham needs more naps. Also, thoughts. Also, to drop out of the race. Also, possibly, retirement.
3. If you didn’t know who Jim Gilmore was before last night, you still don’t know. Between him and George Pataki, it was impossible to tell who made less of an impression on the audience. If either of them had entered the race to raise their public profiles in anticipation of a future run at, well, anything, they can rest assured that, at the very least, Americans, upon hearing either of their names, turned to their nearest handle of vodka and whispered… who?
4. Megyn Kelly asked hardball questions of the prime time debaters, which earned her a spate of terrible Facebook fan page commentary and the honor of being called a “bimbo,” a sentiment which Donald Trump immediately endorsed. Which is convenient for Donald Trump, since he made it through the entire debate without endorsing a single policy, except, perhaps, a national program to relocate Rosie O’Donnell to an inaccessible private island. On that, he is likely to earn widespread support. But while the Donald spent the greatest amount of time yammering, among the candidates, he actually said very little. Except that you should be concerned that he intends to run third party. Which is fine. We always need more candidates to confuse elderly Floridian voters.
5. Rick Santorum spent most of the Happy Hour debate looking confused as to why he was in the twentieth century.
6. For the first time in history, observation linked Ted Cruz to Mike Huckabee, which is an intriguing development. Post-debate Luntz polling revealed that those souring on Trump were moving “back” to Cruz and Huckabee, neither of whom made a spectacular showing last night, but definitely share some of Trump’s “anti-establishment” credentials (if there is a such thing). It may turn out that the primary impetus behind Trump’s popularity was simply that neither Cruz or Huckabee had yet hit the trail — certainly Cruz seems to consider Trump his stalking horse — but if neither Cruz nor Huckabee can capitalize on the eventual Trump disengagement, the connections will sink all three. Personally, I see this as no loss. You may differ. In which case, feel free to call me a closeted liberal in the comments section as usual.
7. Jeb Bush is rather annoyed that you’re forcing him to degrade himself by answering your questions, America. He would like to just be President now, okay? Can you make that happen? Good. See in you December of 2016.
8. Rand Paul and Chris Christie got into a tense exchange over who was more likely to protect Americans’ civil rights in the face of intrusive governmental forces. Rand Paul clearly believes Rand Paul is the foremost protector of the Bill of Rights. Chris Christie is not sure we have one and would like to put a lot of people in jail. Both came off looking childish: Paul, because his message seems to have taken on that copyrightable shrill twinge we libertarians sometimes get after drinking and encountering someone who failed AP US History, and Christie because he’s Chris Christie and nobody really likes him anymore.
9. Marco Rubio “won” the debate itself, which is great for Marco Rubio because it’s high time he’s taken seriously as a candidate. He’s good looking, he’s got a great background story, he’s nuanced on policy and the media already hates him so much they pay for people to scour through hours of footage of Miami Zoning Commission hearings. And now he seems like he could take on the so-called “heavy hitters” he was supposed to be crushed by. Frankly, it would be fun to see him take on Carly in a one-on-one. We’d all be better for it, too.
10. Don’t think only Republicans had a tough night. This also happened, thus ensuring that, no matter which direction America goes in, we all lose.