Frankly, if there was a star at last night's GOP debate, it was Megan Kelly who got off some real zingers and put Ted Cruz in his place when she played videos of Ted Cruz's past statements on immigration reform which diametrically differ from what he is now saying on the campaign trail and tried to claim last night. It's as if she had prepped with Rachel Maddow. It was delicious to watch. Others took their hits last night and overall Jeb Bush and John Kasich came across as the most rational - not that sanity and rationality matter for much any more in today's GOP. As for Marco Rubio, his statements aimed at prostituting himself to Christofascists made me question why he doesn't simply have "I'm a pandering whore" tattooed on his forehead. A column in the Washington Post looks at Cruz as the big loser and other aspects of last night. Here are excerpts:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who has been in a tailspin since Trump put him in his place at the last debate on “New York values,” had his worst debate outing, to put it mildly. His initial question on Trump’s absence ushered in a drippy tribute to Iowans who welcomed his family, but then dwelt too long on Trump. Asked about his inconsistent defense record, he doubled down on his silly embrace of “carpet bombing.” The event vividly explained that without someone to attack Cruz has precious little to say.
In a cringe-worthy moment, he got shouted down by moderator Chris Wallace for interrupting. He looked, well, weak. Complaining about others attacking him (they were not) drew boos from the crowd. His joke that he would have to leave the stage if people don’t stop being mean fell flat.
By contrast Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who has been picking up momentum and going hard after evangelical voters, had an exceptionally strong first half of the debate, navigated his way on immigration and may have pushed closer to Cruz in Iowa.
In his face down with Cruz on immigration, Rubio went for blood, saying, “This is the lie that Ted’s campaign is built upon” — namely that only he is a conservative and everyone else is a RINO. Rubio kept going, “We’re not gonna beat Hillary Clinton with someone who’s willing to say or do anything to win an election,” and accused Cruz of trying to “trump Trump on immigration.” All Cruz could do was to cite support from anti-immigration extremists like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) — whom is unknown by the vast majority of voters outside Alabama.
Jeb Bush did not avoid embracing his father and brother, and made his pitch for a candidate with a “record of accomplishment.” Throughout he seemed steadier and more relaxed than at any time previously, citing his detailed plan to defeat the Islamic State. He wound up in an argument with Rubio over “amnesty,” accusing Rubio of “cutting and running,” although he then seemed to undercut himself by saying he agreed to support Rubio’s bill. . . . Without Trump on the stage, Bush arguably had his best debate night. We will see if it came too late in the race to make up lost ground.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chose to hit Clinton rather than his opponents, citing her mishandling of confidential material.
Rand Paul got his chance to make his case for anti-interventionism and criminal reform. In his best moment of the night, he slammed Cruz for switching positions on immigration, in essence taking Rubio’s side in the argument as to whether Cruz was an opportunist. He flatly said Cruz had an “authenticity” problem.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich made his usual pleas for mature leadership, but once again lacked the stage presence and concrete, specific ideas to distinguish him from the crowd. He gave an impassioned plea for helping the mentally ill. For much of the debate however he seemed to be an afterthought.
Finally, Dr. Ben Carson rarely made an impression, although he put in a plug for getting tough with Russia. His quiet demeanor seemed like resignation, a sign his campaign has played out.
With several winners and one obvious loser (Cruz), the debate may cement rather than change preferences. The GOP as a whole regained some solemnity and brain cells without Trump present. The voters will render their verdict on Monday.