1. The New Lineup – Last night’s GOP debate was the smallest so far, with only seven candidates making it to the main stage. Fox Business News decided to restrict the prime-time debate to candidates who were either polling in the top 6 spots nationally, or in the top 5 spots in Iowa and New Hampshire. At Fox Business News’ qualification deadline, Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Bush, and Christie comprised the top 6 nationally polling candidates. Kasich also made it to the main stage, thanks to his 3rd place spot in the New Hampshire polls.
Not everyone was happy with FBN’s new rules—especially Sen. Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina. Both candidates were demoted to the under-card debate, which Paul refused to participate in.
For the most part, viewers seemed to be relieved at the condensed pool of candidates, indicating that people are sick of the side-show and are ready for more substantial debates.
2. The End of the Cruz-Trump Bromance – Last night the gloves finally came off. Cruz and Trump have spent the majority of this election cycle dancing around any sort of confrontation, even when directly questioned on their opposing views. But last night Cruz and Trump were forced into a verbal spar that neither could back down from, resulting in the end of their “bromance.”
Trump had spent the week prior to the debate trumpeting the possibility that Cruz is not eligible to serve as president because his mother, a U.S. citizen, gave birth to him in Canada. These allegations were dismissed by most of the GOP base, but have been gaining traction with hardliners on the far right. Cruz dismissed Trump’s claims, noting that Trump’s mother was born in Scotland.
The top two ranking candidates also squabbled over Cruz’s remarks on Trump’s “New York values.” Safe to say that it was a bad move for Cruz, as Trump seized the moment and cited the city’s camaraderie in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks as reason to be proud of these so-called “New York values.”
It would have been nice to see the two debate actual policy instead of who’s mother was born where, and why New York is great, but perhaps this is the first step.
3. Carson’s Candidacy Crashes (And Burns … Slowly) – Carson has been dealing with some serious internal issues lately, as evidenced by the constant stream of departures from his increasingly dysfunctional campaign. The retired neurosurgeon went into last night’s debate amid scoffing media reports that his finance chair, Dean Parker, had stepped down after it was revealed that he had been paying himself $20,000 a month.
If Carson felt any sort of urgency to save his flailing campaign, he certainly did not channel it into last night’s debate. Carson delivered a a sleepy, unexciting performance that will most likely be indicative of the upcoming final weeks of his campaign before it embarks on a slow death at the start of primary season.