I hope a lot of people watched Fox News on Thursday night.
Usually I think the network doesn’t deserve enough viewers to stay on the air, so let me be clear about what I mean.
I hope Donald Trump’s absence was seen for the positive thing it was, and voters tuned in for what was, for once, a substantive Republican debate. That hasn’t happened, partly because of crowded stages, partly because of a lack of detailed ideas to discuss and largely because Donald Trump’s presence is the easiest way to disrupt what could otherwise be a more well-run debate.
So what did we see?
Ted Cruz hates the media nearly as much as Trump does.
He claimed several questions to other candidates were requests to attack him, seeming not to recognize that a goal of debates is to discover how potential nominees differ on policy.
And with Trump gone, Cruz is the frontrunner in the room. His rivals are going to compare themselves to him, whether moderators drive that or not.
Cruz and Marco Rubio have opinions on immigration, and that’s all I feel I can accurately say about that.
How much attention should we pay to their votes on particular bills and amendments? Have these senators changed opinions? Does that matter? Is changing an opinion an inherently bad thing that we don’t all do as we receive more information?
Everyone else is still present.
That’s especially true for Jeb Bush. I suspect he feels obligated to run because of his family history, and knows at this point that he isn’t likely to get anywhere.
Ben Carson speaks like he’s nervously reciting whatever potentially relevant facts he can remember. He seems to know this, saying “You're not going to hear a lot of polished political speech from me.”
Chris Christie still wants to be the guy everyone can relate to.
“I feel like I need a Washington-to-English dictionary converter,” he said.
John Kasich is still trying to remind everyone there are Democrats in this country too, Republicans are going to have to work with them and the stubborn uncompromising positions that might appeal to primary voters are not what will work in the general election or the White House.
Rand Paul is also sane. He knows the government can’t just shut down mosques, for example.
They’re not new messages. But they came out more clearly when Trump wasn’t shouting over them.