You knew it had to happen. As much as Reince Priebus and the GOP grand poobahs tried to keep the Republican presidential primary debates from being the embarrassment they were in 2012, and as civil as possible, as they could with all the changes they made to the 2016 version, they couldn't contain what happened last night.
With the Iowa caucuses just around the corner on Feb.1st , and one more debate on January 28th, the candidates took direct aim at each other for almost two hours on the Fox Business channel. I thought NBC's Chuck Todd has some good observations on Twitter about how badly the moderators handled the evening. I agreed with him on most points.
Right from the first question to Ted Cruz, it was obvious that the candidates wouldn't bother answering direct questions and instead kept to their rehearsed talking points. Maria Bartiromo began by asking about the nation's economy, but Cruz jumped right into a completely unrelated topic about the ten sailors that were detained for a few hours. It was very sad how the candidates tried to use our ten US sailors as a political punching bag, when the event was diplomatically sorted out very quickly by the Obama administration.
BARTIROMO: The president said that anyone who claims America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction. Senator Cruz, what do you see that he doesn’t?
CRUZ: Let me start — I want to get to the substance of the question on jobs, but I want to start with something. Today, many of us picked up our newspapers, and we were horrified to see the sight of 10 American sailors on their knees, with their hands on their heads.
In that State of the Union, President Obama didn’t so much as mention the 10 sailors that had been captured by Iran. President Obama’s preparing to send $100 billion or more to the Ayatollah Khamenei. And I’ll tell you, it was heartbreaking.
But the good news is the next commander-in-chief is standing on this stage.
CRUZ: And I give you my word, if I am elected president, no service man or service woman will be forced to be on their knees, and any nation that captures our fighting men will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America.
For the most part the Fox Business debate hardly touched economic issues and instead turned into a world extreme cage match between candidates trying to rise in the polls and the primaires.
There were many separate skirmishes which started with Ted Cruz debating Donald Trump over the validity of his birther predicament. It appeared Trump wasn't warmed up yet while Cruz was well prepared, like a cat pouncing on an unsuspecting mouse and won the match, even if much of what he said was nonsense. When Megyn Kelly has no idea what you're talking about, you've lost a lot of people.
Since host Cavuto set him up perfectly with the question, Cruz got off to a flying start and was the hour one winner of the debate. But things didn't go well for Cruz in the second hour of the debate, when he was asked by Maria Bartiromo what he meant by "new York values, since she's a New Yorker too and by no means a liberal.
BARTIROMO: Senator Cruz, you suggested Mr. Trump, quote, “embodies New York values.” Could you explain what you mean by that?
CRUZ: You know, I think most people know exactly what New York values are.
BARTIROMO: I am from New York. I don’t.
CRUZ: What — what — you’re from New York? So you might not.
But I promise you, in the state of South Carolina, they do.
He kept digging himself deeper in a ditch:
Not too many years ago, Donald did a long interview with Tim Russert. And in that interview, he explained his views on a whole host of issues that were very, very different from the views he’s describing now.
And his explanation — he said, “look, I’m from New York, that’s what we believe in New York. Those aren’t Iowa values, but this is what we believe in New York.” And so that was his explanation.
And — and I guess I can — can frame it another way. Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I’m just saying.
This gave Trump the opening he needed and he destroyed Cruz with it to basically win the entire debate.
TRUMP: So conservatives actually do come out of Manhattan, including William F. Buckley and others, just so you understand.
And just so — if I could, because he insulted a lot of people. I’ve had more calls on that statement that Ted made — New York is a great place. It’s got great people, it’s got loving people, wonderful people.
When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York. You had two one hundred…
… you had two 110-story buildings come crashing down. I saw them come down. Thousands of people killed, and the cleanup started the next day, and it was the most horrific cleanup, probably in the history of doing this, and in construction. I was down there, and I’ve never seen anything like it.
And the people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw more death, and even the smell of death — nobody understood it. And it was with us for months, the smell, the air.
TRUMP: And we rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers. And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.
Cruz got his ass handed to him and he knew it. Just look at his face at the end of Trump's rant.
During Fox News' post debate discussion, Charles Krauthammer told Megyn, he was shocked how badly Cruz did against Trump's attack. He also remarked how he got played by Marco Rubio as well.
Sen. Marco Rubio seemed like he grabbed the Red Bull instead of the Poland Springs before the debate because he was amped up through most of it. He finest moment came when he also made Cruz look small when he grilled him on his VAT tax scheme. When Cruz tried to deflect his attacks away by calling it oppo research, Rubio answered back by saying it was his record.
Rubio also went after Christie just as hard and although Christie won one argument, he made Christie lie about most of his record (supporting Planned Parenthood, Common Core, Justice Sotomayor) which will hurt the NJ governor further down the road if he can get enough traction in NH.
Dr. Ben Carson looked lost onstage and did not bring the energy he promised CNN, when he said he had extra "pep," in his step.
Gov. John Kasich's plan to be the most experienced and even minded candid hasn't worked from day one and after New Hampshire I imagine he might bow out, although he could hold a lot of sway of Ohio delegates.
Jeb Bush had his best debate performance so far and rallied in the second hour to appear like he, at least deserves to be on the stage.
I have Donald Trump winning the debate, with Rubio and Cruz tied for second, but Cruz did take more damage this debate than at any time before it.
Jeb Bush helped himself for a change and as much as the GOP hierarchy/Joe McQuaid want Chris Christie, the base will always hate him.