My overall debate thoughts based on how it will impact the race going forward:[score]Ted Cruz[/score] dominated the first hour of this debate when the most people were watching, the likes of which nobody has in this race so far. He looked the most presidential, confident, winsome, and ready to lead. In the second hour he also had several fine moments, and the only reason this wasn’t a total rout for him is because [score]Marco Rubio[/score] got the better of the final exchange at the end (if you totally discount intellectual honesty). This was the most important debate for Cruz, becaue he needed to show he could be a tangible frontrunner when under the gun to close the sale. And he did. Whatever the odds of him winning Iowa were going in, and they were already high, they’re now even higher.
The first hour was a disaster for Donald Trump. Fox didn’t let him speak until 18 minutes in, which was obviously on purpose, and Cruz was the first person to truly get the best of him. But doggone it, give the devil his due. There’s a reason why Trump has overcome failed businesses, marriages, PR embarrassments, etc. that would make most men take the fetal position. He is relentless and does not go down easy. He came back in the second half by switching gears and going conscientious instead of melting down. Cruz showed if you hit him from the right he is vulnerable, but Trump also showed he ain’t going down easy. And it’s going to take more than one round or even a few right hooks to knock him out. He will remain the national frontrunner.
The other big winner tonight was the establishment, in a weird way, because this debate may finally force them to choose whom to choose. Because for most of the evening Chris Christie got the best of Rubio, including hammering him with “you had your chance and you blew it.” Yet there’s no question Rubio is the better positioned candidate of the two, and he did get the best of the exchange he had with Cruz at the very end (if you totally discount intellectual honesty). But with Cruz and Trump each surviving the first time they went at each other and showing they have staying power, the establishment has to know they are running out of time to align behind a candidate.
Nobody else is relevant in the race at this point. The eventual nominee was mentioned here already.
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