As most of you know, I am a Rubio supporter (and fundraiser--see your great opportunity to donate off the right side of this page). I think he clearly won each of the previous debates, and the contests were not close.
I'd say he either tied Cruz last night or was nipped in the end by Cruz opportunistically jumping onto the "experience" question Rubio was asked. Either way, he clearly remains the class of the field.
The surprise of the evening was Rand Paul--who jumped on Marco like a hobo with a ham sandwich--and he did so by rediscovering his (Paul's) libertarian roots. Rubio is out with a broad-based plan to increase defense spending, and if you add it all up and multiply it across ten years, some analysts think it would cost $1T. I won't quibble with that estimate, but I will only remind you that in that 10 years, the Federal Gov't will spend over $35T, and so an additional $1T to shore up our increasingly unprepared defenses seems reasonable to me. Oh, and don't forget that in that 10 years, our economy will be worth over $200T.
Rand was the guy I always figured would be standing at the end to face the eventual nominee. The problem he's had though, is that he's been running less as a libertarian and more as a Republican, and as a Republican, he's pretty bad. Reverting to his libertarian roots last night was a smart move, and while I utterly disagree with him on his isolationism and his craven attack on Rubio's defense plan, as a tactical move, it was smart. As was his attack on Rubio's enhanced Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) plan, but this will ultimately be an unsatisfying line of attack, as Rubio continues to point out that even if those receiving it have no income tax liability, they continue to pay payroll taxes--and so they are in fact, receiving their own money back -- which remains--even in this weird environment-- a bedrock conservative position.
Cruz was good--very good. But I am not a fan.
!Jeb did not move the needle, and we are at the beginning of the end of his candidacy I believe.
Kasich as a royal pain in the ass, and he played himself right out of the VP stakes with his holier than though bullshit.
Carson was believable, reasonable, and straightforward. I am growing to like him more and more.
Fiorina was less effective than in the past-- this "lets take our government back" cry is a little annoying.
Finally, he who shall not be named continued to beclown himself with his detail free platitudnal mumblings.
As for the debate itself--my goodness, what an improvement. With the exception of Kasich's annoying interruptions, this was a high minded, substantial debate with really good questions and really good back and forths (especially Rubio and Paul).
I would dearly like to see a foreign and defense policy debate conducted on the same terms.