By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Live-blogging tonight’s Republican presidential debate


11:19. Well, I thought Kasich won by a lot, though if past performance is any guide, Republican viewers will disagree. Rubio was OK but over-rehearsed. Bush did little to help himself. Trump was pretty good — and a lot better than Carson. And that’s a wrap.

11:11. OK. Closing statements.

11:07. I’ve zoned out.

11:02. So what’s going on? “That was fun. Let’s have a third hour”?

11:00. Maria Bartiromo tosses a softball: How can any of you match up with Clinton’s experience?

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10:55. What do you mean “More questions coming up”? We’ve only got five minutes to go, and we’re heading into a commercial.

10:54. You get in an argument with Cruz, you look good. So Kasich looks good. Fiorina: Socialism!

10:50. You know, I would have liked to hear five or six minutes from Kasich on the notion of ethics and values on Wall Street. He cites the Catholic theologian Michael Novak, who’s written a book called “The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” Might be the most important thing anyone has said all night, and it’s said in passing, with the debate clock ticking.

10:45. Dodd-Frank blah blah blah price of soap this is an outrage. Bleah!

10:42. Rather than talking about ordinary people, Bush talks about his deep empathy for bankers. Community bankers rather than mega-bankers. But bankers.

10:40. You know who else has disappeared? Carson.

10:37. Kasich finally gets to talk, and he’s rambling, trying to hit every foreign-policy point that’s been brought up in the last 20 minutes. Worst answer I’ve heard from him. Make one coherent argument that viewers might remember.

10:34. Opposing views.

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10:32. Paul: If we enforce a no-fly zone, we’re going to shoot down Russian planes, and you’ll be sending our sons and daughters to the Middle East. Reminds everyone that he opposed the war in Iraq. Trump gets booed when he criticizes Fiorina for interrupting Paul. Rubio calls Putin “a gangster.”

10:28. Fiorina knows them all.

10:27. Trump is asked if he’ll stand up to Putin. His answer, essentially, is that he and Putin are buddies, and that Russia is useful in the war against ISIS. Bush jumps on him. Trump comes back with a semi-coherent response about not wanting to help Syrian rebels when we don’t know who they are.

10:16. The Bush Campaign Death Watch is only going to become more intense after tonight. If he were otherwise a good candidate, it would be one thing. But he’s been less than compelling on the stump, he doesn’t have a particularly compelling story to tell about his years as governor of Florida, and the Bush brand is pretty badly tarnished.

If Republican voters decide to go with one of the extremists, Bush gets frozen out. If they go with a mainstream conservative, Kasich and Rubio seem like far better bets at this point. It is very difficult to see how Bush can get back into the race.

10:08. Every answer that comes out of Rubio’s mouth sounds totally rehearsed. Rand Paul — remember him? — scores some points by going after Rubio’s tax plan and sounding like he can actually think on his feet. Paul: “Can you be conservative and be liberal on military spending?” Now Cruz jumps in to talk about sugar subsidies, of all things. Fiorina is talking about zero-based budgeting and a three-page tax code (definitely shorter than the Bible).

Bush has disappeared.

10:01. Did Clinton really say we’re going to have to live with 2 percent annual growth, as Bush just claimed?

9:57. Cruz: “There are more words in the federal tax code than there are in the Bible.” A very telling point because — uh — what?

9:56. This popcorn is good.

9:55. Purely from a performance point of view, Fiorina is turning in yet another strong debate performance. Yet despite predictions by analysts that she will start to move up in the polls, she’s stuck within the ranks of the also-rans.

I think the reason is that Fiorina has made a conscious decision to compete for the large share of the Republican electorate that wants and expects to be lied to — the abortion video she’s seen that doesn’t exist, her alternative history of her time at the top of Hewlett-Packard, her demagoguing on the Affordable Care Act. The problem with that strategy is that the free market (as she might put it) has decided, and they’re going with Trump and Carson.

9:46. Fiorina makes a brazen pitch for all those Scott Walker supporters out there.

9:42. “If Republicans join the Democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose,” says Ted Cruz before making some truly tortured analogies about bankers and journalists. “We’re tired of being told we’re anti-immigrant. It’s offensive.” Of course, it’s also true.

9:38. Kasich and Trump both looked good on the exchange on immigration. Trump was a little more controlled than he usually is, but Kasich nevertheless exposed him as a charlatan (as he’s done before). Bush makes a point that’s both reasonable and instantly forgettable.

9:34. Trump likes Ike.

9:33. Neil Cavuto hits Carson with the first tough question of the night — his trustworthiness regarding his life story. “What I do have a problem with is being lied about,” Carson says. And then, without answering any of the questions about him, he goes after Hillary Clinton for lying about coming under attack in the former Yugoslavia. (As if that wasn’t a huge story in 2008.) “People who know me know I’m an honest person.” Cavuto: “Thank you, Dr. Carson.”

So the panelists are handling themselves with considerably more dignity than the CNBC folks did a couple of weeks ago. But “Thank you, Dr. Carson” is not an adequate follow-up. There has to be a midpoint between the snark and disrespect shown by the CNBC panelists and the failure to press the issue that Cavuto just showed.

9:28. This shingles commercial is disgusting.

9:27. If you’re just checking in, welcome to our steam-powered vintage live blog. If you’re not accustomed to old media, remember that you need to hit refresh every so often to see new content.

9:22. OK, let’s find this mother Carly Fiorina claims she talked with. There’s a pattern here.

9:21. Let’s repeal all of Barack Obama’s rules, Bush says. Among other things, he would repeal net neutrality. And he casts regulation as contributing to poverty and lack of opportunity.

9:18. Bush is whining.

9:16. John Kasich has a shambling, friendly-uncle style that I find appealing. He’s very conservative, but he comes across as less ideological and less hard-edged than some of the other candidates, as well as less prepped than Rubio. I’ve thought for some time that he would be the Republicans’ best bet in a general election. But in the current environment, he’s been cast as a hopeless RINO.

9:12. Nativist Trump opens by saying we can’t have higher wages if we want to compete with other countries. Wonder how that will play with his America First supporters. Carson says a higher minimum wage would hurt African-Americans trying to enter the job market. Marco Rubio says a higher minimum wage “would make people more expensive than a machine.”

“Welders make more money than philosophers,” Rubio says. “We need more welders and less philosophers.” Thus combining populism and anti-intellectualism, which are kissing cousins in any case.

8:58. Stephen Hayes says the most pressure is on Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. My suspicion is that the pundits are poised to say two hours from now that Bush had a good night — as long as he gives them something to hang their hats on.

8:47. What I’ll be looking for tonight: Can the Fox Business Channel rise above the very low bar set by CNBC? Will Ben Carson hold up under what is likely to be a heavy barrage over his tales of dubious truthfulness (West Point, Yale, the belt buckle) and just plain dubiousness (Muslims, the Holocaust, pyramids)? If Carson crumples, can Donald Trump reassert his dominance? Can Jeb Bush get back into the race?


I’ll be live-blogging tonight’s Republican presidential debate on the Fox Business Channel. Why? I’m finding that live-tweeting is more and more dissatisfying, as it becomes a contest to see who can be the most clever and snarky and thus generate the most traffic.

Besides, I’ll be writing something up for tomorrow morning, and it seems to me that blogging is more likely than tweeting to yield useful notes. So tune in here at 9. And feel free to weigh in with your comments — using your real name, of course.

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  1. What a terrific idea, Dan. So much more civilized than tweeting a quick response. And perfect for one who enjoys writing in complete sentences!

    • Nancy Mades-Byrd

      It’s way more entertaining with your blogging! Thanks!

  2. Paul Fitzpatrick

    Far better than twitter, thank you for that

  3. If you ignore the content, Cavuto sounds like Chris Matthews with a lower voice.

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