Live-Blogging Tonight’s Republican Debate

FINAL THOUGHTS: For a moment I thought it was going to come to fisticuffs. Too bad Christie dropped out. That would have been the cherry on top. Wow!… What a debate. Kasich helped himself the most. Jeb has gone from hiding his last name to running on his brother’s record. Rubio didn’t have another meltdown — probably because Christie wasn’t around. Cruz fumbled over when Kennedy was appointed and failed to capitalize on the issue of replacing Scalia. Carson looked lost. Trump was temperamentally hot, maybe too hot. If Trump wins in South Carolina, it means that the party has moved on from George W. Bush and Trump’s hostile takeover the GOP will be just about complete. – CC

Winners: Bush, Rubio; Wash: Kasich; Losers: Trump, Cruz, Carson — but do Trump and Cruz’s performances cancel each other out? – AK


10:54 – Trump takes advantage of having the final word to try to define the stakes: more ‘failure,’ no more victories, decline — or else a serious change in leadership. – AK

10:53 – Cruz said our country ‘literally hangs in the balance’! No! Stop it! – AK

10:51 – Rubio delivered a solid performance, but I am not sure how many headlines he will make. Jeb and Trump were the center of attention in this debate. And — does Rubio really think he as president will be abe to overturn the SCOTUS same-sex marriage decision? – AK

10:51 – Rubio really showed his Religious-Right side in his closing statement. – CC

10:50 – Jeb was on his A-game tonight, maybe for the first time, and he was especially confident knowing he had the crowd behind him. For the first time, he really seemed like he actually wanted to be POTUS. – AK

10:49 – Kasich has been masterful at adapting his message to South Carolina. The Kasich on stage tonight has, at times, been unrecognizable from the one we saw on the New Hampshire debate stages. He was much more forceful, hawkish, overtly religious rather than feel-good spiritual, and focused on localism than before. – AK

10:42 – Trump is right to say that a governor cannot act like what he did in his term is the beginning and the end of his record. What did he leave his successor? The Bushes pushed the ‘ownership society’ agenda that encouraged risky sub-prime mortgage deals. – AK

10:37 – Trump is asked to give a single demonstration of his humility and responds by talking about how fantastic he is. His egomania is not an act; it is central to his very being. – AK

10:36 – I surely must not be alone in thinking this is one of the most explosive, contentious, and personal debates I have ever seen. Incredible stuff. – AK

10:32 – Carson still begging for chances to speak. – CC; The moderators are all but explicitly treating Carson as an afterthought in this debate. – AK

10:29 – Ronald Reagan signed some awfully liberal abortion bills into law as governor of California – CC

10:27 – The attacks on Cruz are so personal and vicious — he truly is the Joe McCarthy of his era: utterly loathed by all of his colleagues. – AK

10:24 – It is interesting that Trump hesitated to call Reagan strongly conservative — perhaps he meant to imply he was not as truly conservative as the variety of ‘common-sense conservative’ Trump called himself. – AK

10:14 – This is the second time Carson has plugged his website! – AK

10:13 – John Kasich just used the phrase ‘dollars to donuts.’ At what point does one become simply too earnest? – AK

10:11 – Where the hell has this Jeb Bush been for the last year? Does Bush finally want to try to actually win? – AK

10:10 – Trump did not say that immigrants are rapists, and Jeb knows it. – AK

10:08 – Both Trump and Rubio have now called Cruz a liar. – AK

10:07 – Everyone is on their A-game tonight. There’s a palpable sense among the candidates that anything could happen. – AK

10:06 – Cruz also calls the audience out as the ‘donor class.’ Is this just going to be how debates go, now? In 2012, it became faddish to take on the moderators. Now, in 2016, the candidates take on the audience. – AK

10:00 – Cruz habla espanol after all! – CC

9:56 – The moderators basically just said to Carson: ‘Alright, say what you want to say about everything the other candidates just talked about.’ – AK

9:54 – How absolutely ridiculous for Kasich to attack Bush — prompting him to counterattack — and then refusing to reply on the grounds that he doesn’t want to go negative! – AK

9:51 – Smart for Kasich to humanize the Medicaid expansion issue rather than try to run from it. It helps to frame the question as: Are real people better off or worse off for what I’ve done? – AK

9:42 – What a debate, so far! This is captivating.. The Bush team pulled out all the stops tonight to pull the rug out from under Donald Trump. And the stakes are so high — George W. Bush’s legacy, 9/11, the meaning of the Iraq War, whether Bush is responsible for destabilizing the Middle East — this is the debate I’ve been waiting for from the Republicans. – AK

9:37 – Trump’s contempt for George W. Bush is obvious. The only question left is how will it play in SC? – CC

9:37 – This is the most explosive Republican debate I have ever seen! This is thrilling — and over something of such serious consequence. This is the Bush-Trump debate we’ve been waiting for.  – AK

9:36 – Trump may have gone to far on saying that the Bush lied about WMDs. – CC

9:34 – Absolute fireworks! This is the foreign policy debate America deserves to hear. Trump has now fully embraced his populist, Ron Paul-Pat Buchananite foreign policy.  – AK

9:30 – Reality check: The Kurds will not go into Sunni areas occupied by ISIS. – CC

9:29 –  Remarkable moment between Trump and Bush showing the split in the GOP over Russia. Very instructive. – CC

9:28 – Jeb is clearly on his A-game — maybe since he knows he has the crowd behind him. But Trump is making the best of a rigged situation. – AK

9:27 – This audience is stacked with Jeb supporters. – AK

9:24 – I was absolutely not expecting that from Kasich — hawkishness on Russia and a clear moral vision of the stakes at play on the global stage. Has John Weaver been encouraging Kasich to mimic his former client McCain’s rhetoric? – AK

9:20 – Rubio is trying to wrap himself in the moral gravity of war and peace to cover up for the fact that he has not actually been in a position in which he had to be held accountable over a major decision, as Christie said in the last debate. – AK

9:20 –  The CW was that Trump would trip over the SCOTUS question and he did just fine. Cruz was expected to knock out of the park and did not. – CC

9:18 – Trump offers nothing but platitudes on foreign policy. But it is fascinating to see him appeal to Republicans by proudly touting his opposition to the Iraq War. – AK

9:15 – To put it bluntly: Scalia’s death helps Ted Cruz, whose legal expertise will give him a chance to shine tonight. Cruz clerked for William Rehnquist and has argued cases himself before the Supreme Court. And the base unequivocally trusts him on judicial issues. – AK

9:14 – How on Earth would Jeb know whether Obama would choose an acceptable ‘consensus pick’ before he has even announced his nominee? – AK

9:11 – Rubio just can’t help himself — he’s just got to get one of his speeches in. – CC

9:11 – Rubio applauds Scalia’s same-sex marriage dissent — not hiding his Religious Right ties. -AK

9:10 – Term limits on Supreme Court justices are a terrible idea. Why would we want to throw away the accumulated wisdom of decades spent on the Court? – AK

9:07 – Trump doesn’t waste a second in siding with the base on disallowing Obama from appointing Scalia’s replacement. – AK

Given the dramatic turn of events in the last few hours, this debate should be interesting…keep refreshing our page for commentary.