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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

 
Debate night!

by digby

In anticipation of the debate tonight wrote a little re-cap of the GOP race so-far and gave my thoughts about where it stands at the moment for Salon this morning:

Nobody was too surprised to see Texas Governor Rick Perry take the fall; he had been badly damaged by his terrible debate performance in 2012. (A cautionary tale for all those on stage tonight  no doubt.) But Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dropping out was a shocker to virtually everyone in the political profession despite the fact that he was clearly overrated and a bit of a dolt. And there was the time when everyone thought Senator Rand Paul had a real shot, leading his army of libertarian millennial Republicans demanding an end to all government regulation and imperial ambition? Unfortunately, his soldiers seem to have deserted. Today he is reduced to threatening to filibuster bills that really can’t be filibustered in a desperate bid for attention.
The list goes on: Carly Fiorina briefly soared after describing bloody mayhem in dramatic detail in the last debate, but as much as Republicans love that sort of thing, for some reason her popularity didn’t last. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the designated rude-bro until Trump trumped him. Kooky Ohio Governor John Kasich decided to demonstrate his craziness by calling all the other candidates (and by implication their supporters) crazy. And Iowans obviously figure that previous winners Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum failed to make the most of their opportunities so the two are getting no love this time. And Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal and George Pataki? Never mind.
But nobody has stunned the establishment more than Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whom all the smart money assumed would be the man to beat. Why they all thought this remains something of a mystery, since his father and brother both left office with damning disapproval ratings and a country mired in deep recession, but there you are. Poor Jeb is now cutting staff and wistfully telling voters that he’s got lots of cooler things to do than deal with nutballs like Donald Trump. He’s fading like an old black-and-white polaroid while the ever more vivid and colorful “outsiders” continue to dominate the spotlight.
I have written here for months that Marco Rubio makes the most sense on paper. Considering the very real demographic challenges in the GOP, if one were to conjure up a candidate to face the older white candidates being offered up on the Democratic side one, could hardly come up with a more perfect counterpoint than he. Many people have attested to his talent as a speaker and a retail politician, the big money boys love him, and he’s from Florida to boot. So far he has not lived up to that reputation; and he’s teetering dangerously toward Scott Walker territory, with these lame excuses for failing to turn up for work at the U.S. Senate, and his less than compelling campaign appearances. Still, there’s been a tiny Rubio boomlet over the past few weeks and some ripples in the polls that suggest he’s still a top potential establishment candidate.
And then there’s the dark horse, Senator Ted Cruz. I have been tracking his campaignhere for some time as well and have been impressed with how methodically and strategically he’s gone about it. Yesterday, Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post took note as well. He pointed out that Cruz announced before everyone else and that he made his announcement at Liberty University, showing his social conservative credentials up front and proudly. (It was an effective announcement, too, although at the time the pundits dismissed him as a joke, which, considering what has since unfolded with Trump and Carson, was actually a joke on them.)
Cillizza also points out that Cruz has handled Trump very deftly, placing himself as the natural heir to those supporters when he flames out. He’s collected more money than anyone but Bush ($64 million!) and he hasn’t been blowing through it like a teenager at Hot Topic, as Walker did. And then there’s this, which I think is more important than people realize:
[Cruz’s] message is pitch-perfect. No one, not even Trump, in the GOP field can deliver the Washington-is-broken-and-they-don’t even-get-it message better than Cruz. Trump’s problem is that he veers WAY off message every few minutes. Cruz is much more disciplined, finding ways to bring virtually any question he is asked back to how terrible the “Washington Cartel” is. Cruz has one other thing that Trump lacks: A track record of sticking it to the party establishment …[And] as the field starts to shrink, Cruz’s skills as a nationally recognized debate champ will shine through — and get more positive attention. 

There's more about Cruz and Rubio and tonight's debate at the link.