Diary

Winners and Losers from Tuesday's debate

I know, I know.  The world needs more “winners and losers” blogs like it needs _________ (whatever you’re sick of).

Still, I thought I’d try my hands at one of these, with the benefit of a couple days to chew on things.  So, without further ado . . .

BIG winners

  • Donald Trump
  • Hilary Clinton

The way I see it, Trump and Clinton were the big winners on Tuesday night.  Trump’s words may not have dominated Tuesday’s debate, like they have in the past — but his rhetoric and ideas did.  Basically everything that was discussed on Tuesday was discussed in terms that Trump set.  Simply put, he was “the man.”

Although Jeb! landed a body blow (I’m as shocked as anyone), nobody came to his aid, and Trump was able to bluster his way through what might have been a crisis.

Setting aside policy ideas and focusing on tactics, there was exactly one candidate on stage who *deserved* to be a nominee and — sad to say — that person was Donald Trump.

The other winner on the night was the presumptive Democrat nominee: the uber-damaged Hilary Clinton.  It’s hard to image the Clintonistas feeling supremely confident about their chances versus many of the GOP finalists, but I bet they’re confident about facing Trump.

 

small winners

  • [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]
  • Chris Christie
  • everyone at the undercard debate

If Cruz didn’t accomplish anything to threaten Trump’s stranglehold on the national polls, he *did* succeed in neutralizing the Rubio threat.  I used to think the idea of Trump tapping Cruz to be VP was ludicrous, but not any more.  Setting aside the question of whether Trump respects Cruz, personally, it’s becoming obvious that he respects Cruz’s sway with movement conservatives.  Given the steady drumbeat of criticism that Trump faces on websites like this one, it has to have crossed his mind how valuable Cruz could be as an ally.  If Cruz continues to lead Trump heading into the IA caucus, and Trump keeps the gloves on, I’ll take it as a strong sign that I’m on to something here.

Chris Christie also emerged as a small(er) winner on Tuesday.  He spent most of the night throwing red meat to the iconoclastic establishmentarians of New Hampshire and (assuming the others even noticed) nobody really did much about it.  This is based on the intuition (mine, and those of others commenting on the open thread) that, while NH may be establishment GOP, it’s got enough of an independent streak that it’s likely to back a non-obvious establishment candidate.  Bad news for Jeb!.  Possibly good news for Kasich, but I’m still bullish on Christie in NH (though not anywhere else).

Finally, everyone at the early debate was a small winner.  These folks probably shouldn’t have had a stage at all, but they each got 90 minutes of serious-looking TV time.  I’m sure their booking agents noticed, and their appearance fees will be adjusted accordingly.

 

Losers

  • everyone else in the primetime debate

I know, I know.  Rubio was polished, and he continues to annoy Cruz to the point that Cruz has to waste time on him.  But I can’t help thinking that Rubio is running for 2024.  Fiorina continued to look like Cruella de Carly, managing to turn even her good moments bad.

To the extent that Jeb! managed to preserve some self-respect, he could be a small winner . . . but I’m not into moral victories.  Yet.  It’s starting to look like Jeb! is staying in this thing only to carry out some mutually assured destruction with Trump.  If he starts to succeed at that, regardless of his own numbers, I’ll move him up to the “winners” list.

As for the others, Rand was Rand.  Arguably, Kasich was an ever-so-slightly better version of the usual Kasich (but that’s it).  Ben Carson might have finished strong enough to slow down the disintegration of his campaign — but not to stop it.

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