Not one that is likely to change anything immediately.
Trump rules the waves. The flotilla behind him stays much the same, with Rubio and Cruz clucking at each other, Chris Christie being himself, Jeb doing his damnedest to get some purchase on his programs, and Carly Fiorina still standing firm.
In odd and perhaps little noticed ways, though, some damage is sustained. Where after the first debate we disqualified Fiorina for buying the Republican line about Planned Parenthood and baby parts, last night we had to cross out Marco Rubio, too. Asked twice about his stance on immigration, he fudged – delicately, let it be said but ultimately dishonestly. He never answered CNN’s question at all, which was simple and direct. Do you support a path to eventual citizenship for illegal aliens?
Rubio was sensationally smooth, side-stepping the issue entirely by pretending that “citizenship” was the same thing as a Green Card, which allows aliens to work in this country. From attending to him, we understood he favored allowing aliens to eventually, after about ten years, achieve Green Card status. Not another word on citizenship, though. This is more than caution; this, too, is dishonesty. Also, of course, fear of making a misstatement that would come back to haunt later. As we said in an earlier piece, Rubio will be running for the next twenty years without understanding why.
Chris Christie was slain by Rand Paul. Early on, Christie was hurtling down the tracks unimpeded by anyone or anything. But when he said he wanted to close parts of the Internet – those in use in the MidEast, we assume – Rand Paul hit him with the US Constitution. Worse, on judgement, on firing from the hip. These shots hurt Christie and stopped his progress.
Ted Cruz did it to himself. Discussing his familiar plan to “carpet bomb” Syria and Iraq, he ran straight into the same kind of charges Paul made against Christie. The very junior senator from Texas more and more resembles Joseph McCarthy, late of Wisconsin, and not beloved, a likeness not unreported by the press. In fact, as we read and listen to other commentators, we hear more and more of them terming Cruz “dangerous.” We agree entirely. It was an easy shot for Rubio to take, pointing out that Cruz voted to pare down our defense system and yet threatens to use the smaller force for “carpet bombing.” Without money, no war. And then Rand Paul pulled into his slot again and made note that to carpet bomb anyone would force the US to resign from the Geneva Convention. Not one of Ted’s best nights, which pleased many.
Here’s the problem with Jeb Bush. He’s too nice to be in this game. As he and Trump tussled briefly, it was Jeb who finally gave up, shrugged, smiled, and let us know he didn’t think the Donald was a gentleman. He isn’t. But Jeb should have hung in, anyway. The most serious and advanced candidate of the Republican future, Jeb has worked hard to put out position papers, ideas, plans of all sorts: on the economy, on war, or infrastructure. But the release of these well-imagined documents comes quietly. He exposes them from his web site, as opposed to blowing his own horn (as Trump would). He asks something of voters: prove you care and read what I have to say. But the public, while it may indeed care, hasn’t time to do this. It wants short shots, blasts of ideas easily boiled down to fiery slogans. And Jeb, as his mother knew all too well, is not a fiery guy. He is probably the most complete candidate in the race, a man who cares, who reads, and who listens. He has all the virtues of the best of the past. He’s doomed.
Ben Carson is beginning to wake up. We think too late.
Kasich is Kasich. As such, he’s experienced and sensible. He softened his edges last night. We think he’s serious and capable and worth time considering, especially in view of his long years of service.
But it’s the Donald who just keeps steaming ahead. No waves are too high, no problem so thorny that it can’t be condensed into self-love and confidence.
Simple verdict: status quo ante bellum.
Something will give soon enough. We’ll wait.