ABC kind of blew it
First let’s talk about the introduction:
First, calling out Carson’s name before Christie had even left the entryway was kind of stupid — and notice they didn’t repeat that flub with Ted Cruz after Carson. Carson goes to step out after the applause die down, having been ushered out… and hears Ted Cruz’s name. He rightly stops. Carson gestures for Cruz to go, assuming he just got ushered out in the wrong order. Cruz acknowledges Carson and continues out — his name was clearly said. Raddatz then calls for Trump before the applause dies down but with enough timing that Carson ignores the man shooing him out.
Notice what Trump does. He hesitates and approaches Carson. Rubiobot 3000 comes out, walks right past them with nothing more than a tap to Trump’s arm. Bush comes out when called and makes an awkward “eh, sucks for you guys not my problem” face. Then Kasich is called out at the height of Bush’s donor applause. Kasich stands awkwardly but doesn’t approach Trump, Carson is called out again, then Trump — but again, the debate moderators say it during high applause. Trump, after seeing that Carson has taken his position, hears his name and goes. And then Kasich is left there until the candidates start asking about him.
It’d be easy to lay this at the feet of Trump and Carson, “oh they were doing this to be noticed” but it’s pretty clearly the fault of the crew at ABC. Raddatz called out both Trump and Carson during high applause, and then the other guy did it for Kasich at the end. It was just the first bit of poor form — the other was Raddatz trying to “Gotcha” Ted Cruz about the missile launch by North Korea, then smugly stating “well that missile has been on the launchpad for some time” about the intelligence reports.
On to the candidates, in order of their performance:
Trump — he won by behaving. He took on the audience of donors, which was refreshing and really funny. Those people were really angry at him and he doesn’t care. It played to his strength — “I can’t be bought” — and by coming across calm and collected he diminished the Trumpertantrum impact. By saying he was okay with more than water boarding he appealed to the protect-us-first instinct a lot of Americans have — the Jack Bauer method.
Christie — Never thought I’d put him in second in any debate but the man shined today. Perhaps freed from attacking Rand Paul (a candidate I prefer to most remaining candidates), he focused his energy on his real enemy when it comes to the votes: Rubiobot 3000. And he laid into him, and it was effective. His statements about drug use as a disease, and being pro-life for drug users as well as the unborn, may well have been his most human moments in any debate.
Cruz — He hurt himself by laying blame at the feet of CNN. He should have said something along the lines of, “My staffers made a mistake regarding the CNN report. We were rushing to get information out and erred, and I am sorry.” The end — blame shifting looks poor. His story about his half-sister was moving and humanizing and he should probably do that more often.
Jeb! — he challenged Trump on eminent domain but he still looked ineffective. He didn’t make enough waves in the direction of attacking Rubiobot 3000 — he can get voters from Rubio, Christie, or Kasich. He won’t win over Trump, Carson, or Cruz voters during primary season. Losing another exchange with Trump hurt him.
We’ll call it a draw
Carson — he’s just not that good at this. He didn’t hurt himself, but he didn’t help himself. He was just there.
Kasich — I honestly don’t remember much this dude said. That might be enough for him after what happened to Rubiobot 3000.
Rubio glitched. Christie accused him of reciting memorized speeches and he followed up… by repeating himself.
If I had to predict how New Hampshire would go, I’d put my vote on Trump winning first followed by Kasich and Cruz — Rubio fumbled, bad, last night. He could come in third, realistically, but only if his competitors (Kasich, Bush, Christie) fuck up or lose focus. Rubio in second should send up red flags after last night. After New Hampshire it’s game on — Cruz and the top two from NH, with everyone else in dire need of dropping out. If Cruz somehow manages to put himself in second then there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from Washington.