Who watched the six remaining Republican presidential candidates debate in Greenville, South Carolina last night? It was such a free-for-all that the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri had trouble satirizing some of the exchanges: “nothing I can say is actually more ridiculous than what the candidates in fact said.”
The New York Times posted the full transcript here. I’ve enclosed some excerpts below.
What struck me most about the debate was how Donald Trump kept playing to the nationwide audience, ignoring the crowd that booed many of his comments. In contrast, Ted Cruz seemed to do better with the house, but I’m not convinced he came across as well on television. Jeb Bush continues to gain confidence on the debate stage, but where he can start winning states remains a mystery. Marco Rubio seemed relieved to have most of the attention on others and neither reverted to “robot mode” nor lost his cool in a heated exchange with Cruz over immigration policy. Carson and Kasich failed to make any case for their candidacies. The Ohio governor’s whining about negative campaigning won’t win any votes, nor will his defense of expanding Medicaid–though I agree with him on that issue. Carson’s only memorable comment was a Joseph Stalin quote that turned out to be fake.
As has so often occurred since last summer, pundits quickly concluded that Trump “went too far” and would be hurt by some of his attacks, especially denigrating President George W. Bush’s leadership. I’m not so sure. A sizable number of Republicans may share Trump’s views: Bush didn’t “keep us safe” on 9/11, the Iraq War was a disaster, and the Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction. The only comment likely to do significant harm to Trump with the GOP base is his admission that Planned Parenthood does “wonderful things” for women outside of its abortion services.
This is an open thread: all topics welcome.