Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Carnival Moves to CNN

These are less formed because I have to get them out quick before I wind down in advance of the radio marathon tomorrow.

1. Trump plateaus, Carson fades. He knows absolutely nothing about public or foreign policy--which is why he rocketed to the lead. (How else to prove your authenticity?) But he's garnered the know-nothing vote. Tonight's performance will only solidify fears by those who haven't already jumped on the Trump train. Carson, who quietly got tons of praise during the last debate (I have a political twitter feed that's about a third conservative), got zippo tonight. He's also ignorant, but didn't hit the moral/Christian themes that buoyed him last time. Trump may not lose a ton of support, but I bet he doesn't pick any up; Carson begins his inevitable fade.

2. Jeb! and Walker tanked. Of the two, Walker was by far the worst. He's got nothing. Faced with the abyss, he did a disappearing act. I predict he's the next one gone. Jeb! needed to reestablish himself as a plausible establishment alternative, but he did anything but. He's the Eli Manning of the pack. (Non-sportos will have to google that reference.)

3. Carly and Rubio are the big wild card of the night. The conservatives were loving Carly early on. She now stands as the only one to seriously sting Trump. But she has an extremely intense affect that wore badly. The love tapered off. She might get a bump in the polls, but she'll need to figure out how to mix it up and offer levity and warmth if she's going to move into the top tier. As for Rubio, he has always been the consensus media fave, and they were loving him tonight. By normal standards, he did well. He's got a naturalness Carly would do to study. But for whatever reason, he is dead to the base. I don't see anything here that will turn it around, but you never know.

4. Some interesting issues-related stuff actually emerged. The Iraq war came up (Jeb's worst moment: he probably fatally wounded himself if he ever gets to the general by claiming his brother "kept us safe"--yeah, except for that one time), and the candidates sparred. Bush's legacy is mixed, and there were some who repudiated the decision. Cannabis came up and had a few defenders. Carly was surprisingly off-key about it. There was a bizarre moment when Trump cowed the two doctors on the stage into not shaming him on his shameful anti-vax position. Taxes are also funny: Carson wants a minimum wage indexed to inflation; Trump's good with the rich paying more. Some of them even acknowledged the existence of climate change. Honest fissures appeared that will be interesting in the future.

5. Tone. Things were wild at the start, but the evening slowly resolved into a pretty standard political debate. That helped the normals and hurt Trump, whose campaign is predicated on drama and chaos. Huckabee has become angry Uncle Mike, Rand is coming to terms with the obsolescence of his campaign, Cruz is aggressively unlikable but to all of his ~8%, Kasich and Christie were basically reasonable but way out of step with the party (read: doomed).

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