The first Republican debate was marked by its gracious realignment to the ideals of the party’s past: a focus on small-government, compassionate conservatism, and, blessedly, a fierce rejection of the bigotry and anti-intellectualism of the Trump years…
…is what I would be saying if we lived on a sane planet. Unfortunately, however, we do not.
Will tonight’s debate offer anything different? Will Ron DeSantis, as underwater in the polls as Florida will soon be thanks to his climate policies, make an aggressive swerve into anti-MAGAville? Will anybody besides his family remember that Doug Burgum is on the stage?
Join me as I once again descend into the madness of the Republican debate, as we log, minute by minute, the highs, lows, and super-lows of the evening!
9:00 PM: We’re in the Reagan library, which is weird because the modern Republican Party has not only rejected everything Reagan stood for, but they also hate books.
9:02 PM: Stuart Varney butchers Ilia Calderón’s name worse than John Travolta trying to pronounce Idina Menzel’s name while chewing an entire package of Big League Chew. We’re off to a great start!
9:05 PM: Tim Scott pivots from his dumdum statements about firing picketing union workers to the border, calling it “unsafe” and “insecure” – which, as it happens, also perfectly describes Donald Trump.
9:09 PM: Vivek Ramaswamy has the first of what will no doubt be many moments where he claims that drilling and fracking will solve all of America’s problems. Ramaswamy will be a footnote in history, but these clips will one day be played and mocked by our surviving descendants in between the battles of the Water Wars.
9:11 PM: Sorry, Mike Pence was talking and I drifted off.
9:16 PM: OH SNAP! Ron DeSantis speaks for the first time and says that Donald Trump is “missing in action”. Which is technically true, but let’s be clear: Trump’s never been missing. He’s been splitting his time between golf and indictments.
9:20 PM: Vivek seems to be trying to shift from bomb-throwing pizza Noid to actual candidate. I predict this will hurt him: today’s Republican party doesn’t want policies, they want internet trolls with teeth whiteners.
9:29 PM: Tim Scott attacks Vivek Ramaswamy about his ties to China, which leads to a full 30 seconds of everyone talking at once. It has the same order and dignity of a party of first graders diving for candy after the piñata breaks.
9:39 PM: Chris Christie addresses Donald Trump directly, saying that he’s too afraid to appear on the stage. “Pretty soon people won’t call you Donald Trump… they’ll call you Donald DUCK.” It’s notable that the audience does not boo this, despite it being a Pence-level lame joke. Was that a ketchup bottle I just heard crashing against the wall?
9:45 PM: Vivek suggests teens be banned from using social media, which is as savvy a move as “attacking Taylor Swift” and “not letting people under 25 vote” for getting young people interested in the GOP.
10:02 PM: Chris Christie frames Joe Biden being married to Dr Jill Biden as him “sleeping with a member of the teacher’s union”, which is a statement so disingenuous and unserious that it might actually tear open the fabric of the universe. If you’re reading this from an endless, screaming void, you have Chris Christie to thank.
10:15 PM: “Every time I hear you speak, I feel a little dumber”, Nikki Haley says to Vivek Ramaswamy. Does anybody know where I can send her an Edible Arrangement?
10:26 PM: Nikki Haley slides in some Trump criticism in her answer about China… and again, no pushback from the crowd. The only thing that Trump does better than artificially inflating the value of his properties to gain more favorable loans is understanding the undercurrents of the electorate. He’s acutely aware of every boo that doesn’t happen tonight.
10:37: Nikki Haley attacks Ron DeSantis like he was a tenured college professor trying to teach accurate history at a Florida state college.
10:51: Nikki Haley is fighting with Tim Scott right now like Rudy Giuliani’s hair dye fighting with his head sweat.
10:57: All the candidates refuse to vote on which candidate should be “voted off the island” because it’s “disrespectful”. A rare moment of class in a night of sniping. But when Chris Christie is pushed on it, he says “Donald Trump”… which leads to actual applause from the audience. Somewhere, seated on a throne of stolen nuclear documents, Donald Trump is screaming.
11:00: And that does it. I’ve sweated through three shirts and finished off half a dozen energy drinks and I’m still somehow less jumpy that Vivek Ramaswamy. Who do you think won the evening? Let us know in the comments!
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