Having heard all of last night's debate, here are a few things I took away from it.
While many people expected Trump and Cruz to have at it, I didn't. In fact when the CNN talking head tried to provoke it by asking Trump about his reference to Ted Cruz as 'a bit of a maniac', Trump just looked at Ted Cruz, both of them laughed out loud and the Donald answered by saying, “I’ve gotten to know him over the past few days. He has a wonderful temperament.Nah, he's alright" mocking the CNN host ( I believe it was Dana Bash) for trying to provoke a fight between the two.
The fisticuffs I did expect were between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and they definitely went at it. As the new GOP establishment dedicated candidate, Rubio saw it as his job to assault Ted Cruz and try to move into second place. CNN and some of the GOP establishment friendly hosts on Salem gave him a huge assist, seeing to it that he got more time than any other candidate with the possible exception of Donald Trump. Based on the polls, Rubio didn't succeed.
One of the best lines of the night came when Marco Rubio tried to defend his record on illegal migration by saying that Ted Cruz had his own things to answer for without going into specifics. Cruz's response was that comparing his position to Rubio’s was like “suggesting the firefighter and the arsonist have the same record at the scene of the fire.”
Not only couldn't he hold his own against Ted Cruz, but there was an assist from Rand Paul who attacked Rubio on his misstatements about the government surveillance program and about his stance on illegal migration,cutting him to the bone at one point by saying Rubio was more loyal to Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer than conservative principles. Rand Paul's point, as usual was succinct - how can Marco Rubio try to paint himself as a national security candidate when he's so weak on border security and illegal migration?
Rand Paul also had sharp words for the bufoonish Chris Christie. When Christie started yakking it up about a no fly zone in Syria and said he’d shoot down Russian planes in a no-fly zone if necessary, Rand Paul looked at him the way a scientist looks at a bug in a microscope, pointed at him and said, “If you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate.”
Also of interest was Donald Trump's response to criticism by Jeb Bush:
I'll be very surprised if Jeb Bush lasts much beyond Iowa.
One interesting poll reflecting the impact of the debate was Drudge's online poll. which pretty much reflects exactly where most polls have the candidates:
TRUMP - 43%
CRUZ - 27%
PAUL - 13%
RUBIO - 8%
The Real Clear Politics average has Trump nationally at 33%, Cruz at 16.5% and Rubio and Ben Carson tied at around 12%. In Iowa, Cruz actually leads Trump by about a point, while Donald Trump is solidly ahead in New Hampshire.
Realistically, we're down to a top tier of four GOP candidates at most - Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Carson. Of the four, Carson is already fading away, but after last night his place could be taken by Rand Paul.