So the talking heads are saying that the governors won the debate last night and that Rubio struck out. I watched the entire thing, and I reject that analysis. Truth up front: I’m a Rubio supporter, with Cruz as my second choice. But I tried to be objective, and here’s how I’d rate things, from worst to first:
7. Carson: Nice guy, but the “no one’s noticing me” routine is getting old. And he sounds more like he’s giving therapy than policy positions.
6. Kasich: No idea why they’re giving him so much credit. It was the same old sanctimonious routine we get in every debate. I couldn’t tell any difference between last night and all previous debates.
5. Trump: He may have behaved a little better than usual, but he still showed his arrogance, petulance, and downright meanness. Additionally, some of his answers were awful.
4. Bush: He still looks like he doesn’t know why he’s on the stage, other than that the nomination should automatically be his. And he continues to allow Trump to cower him. Maybe it’s not his fault that he can’t yell as loud as Trump, but I’m sure Kasich and Christie would be willing to give him some lessons, which leads to:
3. Christie: Yes, he got the best of Rubio on those early exchanges. He may have hurt Rubio, but I don’t think he helped himself. He comes across as mean, and he kept interrupting throughout.
2. Rubio: Definitely allowed himself to be outdone by Christie, at least early on. But his performance improved throughout the debate. Yeah, he had some rehearsed lines that he kept repeating, but it worked for Obama.
1. Cruz: Actually I felt he was a little off his game last night also, but IMO he won by default, because everyone else did so poorly.
As for how this plays out, we’ll find out Tuesday. But if any Rubio supporters bolt from him they’re far more likely to go to Cruz than to any of the governors (although the “first-term senator” argument applies to him also). Maybe the governors expect to pick up the undecided’s, but that seems unlikely also. The governors have been camping out in NH, and who doesn’t already know who Bush, Christie, and Kasich are anyhow? I also don’t think Rubio supporters will bolt to Trump, but the result could be that enough go to Cruz to change the order to Trump-Cruz-Rubio, with Trump ahead by double digits. My hunch is that, regardless of how things turn out Tuesday night the governors will stay in, out of stubbornness. Bush has the money, Christie has the arrogance, and Kasich has the establishment endorsements. If that happens we may have the three of them to thank for Trump as our nominee and either Hillary or Bernie as our next president.