Everyone has their opinion of the new ladscape after last night’s GOP debate in Charleston. Is Trump still dominant? Did he and Ted Cruz break up? How much will the “New York values” moment hurt the Texas Senator? Will Marco’s new found passion ignite a fire for him in the hearts of voters? Did he expose Cruz as a master flip-flopper and cynical politician? Is Jeb actually the adult on the stage pulling the puppet strings (I’ll be honest: that last one seems plausible to me)? Just why in the world weren’t Fiorina and Paul — despite being low in the polls, which is the metric for qualification — on that main stage (although Paul’s boycott of the undercard debate led to a boost in attention for him on social media, a situation better for him as an also-ran as anything else would be)?
Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist has a quick roundup that covers the bases beyond the usual “Yeah, but who won?!” claptrap. She seems to have drawn a similar conclusion to just about every other wise pundit who keeps a weather eye on these things: the field has narrowed to 3 — Trump, Cruz, Rubio. (Although her piece has some other interesting points and is worth the read in full).
I’ll add only three things…
1. The juxtaposition between what’s happening on the GOP side and the Democrat side is stark and stunning. There is real debate, real fire, real policy beging discussed by the ladies and gentlemen on the right, and those candidates are interested in engaging the voters, hearing from them, being respectful of their cries when they feel they are not being heard. The Democrats, on the other hand, are holding debates Sunday nights during NFL playoffs. If there’s anything that screams “Pay no attention to the man (or woman) behind the curtain”, it’s that.
2. I keep expecting to see Trump begin to drop in the polls and in the hearts and minds of conservative voters. While that freefall is mystifyingly snail-like in its pace, cracks are beginning to show. The man was actually booed last night. By Southern conservatives. For being a boor. That does indicate a general distaste for the name-calling and general schoolboy bullying approach Trump takes, and that’s a net positive. However, Trump’s response to Cruz in defense of NYC — despite the fact that it is a place fly-over country denizens would never easily fit — was eloquent and lovely and a nice reminder that we are disparate and different and heterogeneous in this country, and that is what makes it a truly remarkable place to live.
3. I see Rubio rising. I’ve nothing to prove that except a gut feeling that the man wants it more than others and that will be compelling to voters in the end. He’s also young enough for millennials, a native son of Latino immigrants, sharp as a tack, and not easily cowed. He’s an upstart. And, after seeing a comment last night from a liberal friend on social media complain that the people who watch GOP debates scare her more than ISIS (!!), there is a serious need to promote someone who can reach people who feel — or, at the least, think it wise to spout off about — those feelings. Personally, I think the Florida Senator who has a penchant for Miami hip-hop is the guy who can do it.