Since last Thursday’s Republican debate, Donald Trump has won seven states, Marco Rubio has lost the faith of one conservative cable network, and the cold war that’s been dividing the GOP for months has finally turned hot. On Thursday morning, the party’s last presidential nominee suggested that its current front-runner must be denied the nomination by any means necessary. Tonight, Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Kasich will heed Mitt Romney’s call.
With the Donald’s lead growing and time running out, expect carefully prepared insults and spontaneous shouts to rain heavy on the debate stage in Detroit at 9 p.m. ET. You can take in all the insult comedy and right-wing demagoguery on Fox News Channel or FoxNews.com, and follow along with the Daily Intelligencer team’s live analysis below.
Margaret H: Now O’Reilly is going to interview all of the other candidates. How amazing would it be if each one followed Trump’s lead, told him he’s a colossal jerk?
Marin Cogan: This O’Reilly/Trump interview has gotten so weirdly personal.
Margaret H: Trump is now picking a fight with O’Reilly on live TV. Trump: “I think you’ve become very negative.” O’Reilly: “Why?” Trump: “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask your psychiatrist … I think you get a little carried away with yourself.” What happened to their vanilla milkshake bond?
Marin Cogan: “When I run I have a whole different calculus” –Trump in post-debate interview
Margaret H: Once again, Trump gets opportunity to attack other candidates post-debate. He tells O’Reilly that Rubio is a “choke artist,” will “be beaten so badly by Hillary Clinton your head will spin.”
Gabriel Sherman: Post debate, Trump tells O’Reilly that Fox debate was “tough but fair.”
Ed Kilgore: Trump missed a huge strategic opportunity to make his loyalty pledge conditional on GOP not stealing the nomination from him at the convention by some Corrupt Bargain.
Jonathan Chait: Rubio: #NeverTrump, unless somehow he’s the nominee, in which case, sure.
Margaret H: Trump says he’ll support to GOP nominee too - but he’s repeatedly admitted tonight that he’ll shift his position as needed, so that doesn’t really mean anything.
Ed Kilgore: So it seems that to Rubio #NeverTrump doesn’t mean what it says.
Margaret H: And as for Trump, can he promise he will support the GOP nominee, even if it’s not him? Trump: “even if it’s not me?!?!!?”
Margaret H: Cruz and Kasich will uphold the loyalty pledge, too. Kasich says he still thinks he’ll be the nominee, despite math.
Marin Cogan: Kasich “I kinda think that before it’s all said and done, I’ll be the nominee.” Kinda.
Margaret H: Great last question: Will the candidates still uphold the pledge to support the GOP nominee, even if it’s Trump? Rubio says, “I’ll support the Republican nominee,” because Sanders is a socialist and Hillary is being investigated by the FBI.
Jonathan Chait: Rubio promises to support Trump as the nominee because Benghazi.
Ed Kilgore: Aha! The loyalty pledge is back! Well played, Fox!
Jonathan Chait: “When we come back from this break, we will see if Marco Rubio is still alive.”
Ed Kilgore: Kasich clearly had a lot of talking points to get out before this debate ends.
Margaret H: Kasich gets big applause for telling Wallace “I’m not biting” when invited to attack Trump re: praise from Putin.
Ed Kilgore: Cruz’s “move the fleet into the South China Sea” reminiscent of Carly Fiorina’s specific-sounding nonsense.
Margaret H: Trump’s nuanced foreign policy position: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we got along with the world?”
Margaret H: Rubio points out that once again Trump was pressed to talk about foreign policy, “his answer was just to attack someone else with a name.”
Jebediah Reed: That yoga/flexibility joke was extremely good for a robot
Margaret H: Cruz reminds Trump to “breathe, breathe” as he tries to interrupt. Rubio: “When they’re done with the yoga, can I answer the question?” Cruz doesn’t want to see any yoga on stage (because that’s for hippies, obvs.) Rubio: “He’s very flexible, so you never know.”
Ed Kilgore: Yoga/flexible line from Rubio genuinely funny. Cruz mentioning checks to Hillary for fortieth time getting a little tedious.
Jonathan Chait: Cruz was doing very well until that “breath, breath” moment reminded us why everybody hates him.
Margaret H: Baier notes at one point Trump was a supporter of an assault weapons ban. How about now? “I’m a big defender of the Second Amendment.” Admits he’s changed position on assault weapons.
Gabriel Sherman: Rubio’s answer on guns is we need more of them.
Ed Kilgore: To his credit, Rubio, unlike Cruz, avoids “right of revolution” rationale for second amendment.
Margaret H: Baier frames Second Amendment question by noting that Justice Scalia said some gun regulations are okay.
Margaret H: Is Cruz okay with gay adoption? That’s a state issue, so he doesn’t have to tell us.
Ed Kilgore: Jeb: Yeah, I know, but it’s as relevant as the loaded question he was asked.
Margaret H: Does Kasich think “gay marriage dissenters have rights?” He says he’s for love and respect, suggests gay people refused service should be less litigious.
Jebediah Reed: Ed, safe to say that is lost on >99% of viewers
Marin Cogan: Kasich is having a great night. Not sure it counts for anything, but he’s gotten way better over the last few debates.
Ed Kilgore: Not sure media are aware Kasich belongs to denomination that left Episcopal Church to protest its equal treatment of gay people.
Margaret H: Wallace notes Cruz didn’t attempt to answer his question, asks again, “what would you do to bring manufacturing jobs back to Detroit?” He’d get rid of Obamacare, get rid of EPA, introduce business flat tax.
Ed Kilgore: Really wish someone would ask someone like Cruz whether life would be perfect if government composed of nothing other than the Pentagon.
Ed Kilgore: Psychic flash: this crowd not terribly representative of Detroiters.
Gabriel Sherman: A Kasich-Clinton race would be a battle of love and kindness.
Ed Kilgore: Wish someone (maybe a Governor?) would acknowledge the state role in education mainly a matter of addressing massive problems associated with “local control.”
Ed Kilgore: Cheers for innocence of people responsible for Flint water situation not real good press for Michigan Republicans or for Rubio.
Margaret H: Baier notes that Flint is a much bigger issue on the Democratic side than among Republicans. Rubio says “politicizing the issue” is wrong, defends Michigan governor. It’s “absurd, outrageous” to suggest someone woke up an intentionally poisoned children in Flint (which no one is suggesting).
Jonathan Chait: Rubio: “Politicizing” Flint water is “unfair” because Republicans wouldn’t wake up and decide to poison children.
Ed Kilgore: This debate not a bad start to the collective Stop Trump campaign, but we should remember that if they succeed at some point they have to decide who’s the nominee. Rock, paper, scissors?
Marin Cogan: This debate is pure chaos. I’m surprised the moderators haven’t at least tried to calm the crowd.
Ed Kilgore: Methinks this is going to be the acid test of whether debates where Trump seems to do poorly don’t affect his candidacy.
Margaret H: Apparently Cruz IS familiar with that poll - says it shows Cruz beating Hillary, Trump losing to her by 8 points.
Gabriel Sherman: Trump edging closer to meltdown city. The succession of Trump University attacks clearly got under his skin.
Margaret H: Trump asks Cruz, “Are you at 15 percent in the new CNN poll?” Assumes every other candidate has an encyclopedic knowledge of everyone’s poll numbers.
Eric Levitz: Trump is just stammering percentages now.
Jonathan Chait: Cruz senses attack on Trump by Kelly and Rubio is moment to position himself as the main alternative to Trump.
Ed Kilgore: Another great debate for Democrats.
Jebediah Reed: Trump melting down a little, repeating “It’s a minor civil case” over and over
Margaret H: Cruz shushes Trump like he’s a child, says, “Donald learn not to interrupt. Count to ten, Donald.” Remarkably, he actually stops talking.
Margaret H: How is the wailing, booing audience adding anything to this debate?
Margaret H: Trump is hitting Rubio for being absent for multiple Senate votes, claims he “couldn’t be elected dog catcher” in his home state. “He scammed the people of Florida.”
Margaret H: On Trump University, Megyn Kelly demonstrates the power of having her facts straight, actually challenging a candidate’s bullshit rather than saying “okay, let’s move on,” like some moderators.
Ed Kilgore: Not good for Trump that this debate spending more time on Trump University than, say, the economy. And Kelly just won’t let this go.
Marin Cogan: One thing Megyn Kelly should get credit for: she actually moderates. Manages to get these guys to shut up and holds them accountable better than most moderators this cycle.
Jonathan Chait: Megyn Kelly is doing an outstanding job here slicing up Trump’s bullshit.
Ed Kilgore: There goes the Buffalo Wild Wings vote.
Eric Levitz: “There is a difference between flexibility and telling people whatever you think you need to, to get them to do what you want them to do” - Little Marco
Margaret H: That was clearly supposed to be the big Megyn Kelly-Donald Trump rematch, and he refused to take the bait multiple times. He’s become so presidential … in the hour since he referred to his penis size.
Ed Kilgore: Huh. Kasich launched first direct attack of the cycle on “outsiders” as a category.
Margaret H: Trump: “I’ve never seen a successful person who isn’t flexible.” Crowd cheers his flip-flopping.
Ed Kilgore: Don’t think a question to a candidate should ever begin with “some say…”
Jebediah Reed: Trump is trying *so hard* to be humble
Gabriel Sherman: Trump eerily calm and making sense here.
Jonathan Chait: Trump just admitted to doing something “meekly” !!!!
Margaret H: Megyn Kelly presents THREE videos of Trump contradicting himself, not “telling it like it is.” This is the “10” question she promised to ask earlier this week. Trump’s response is remarkably subdued, so far.
Ed Kilgore: I figured Trump skipped the last Fox debate precisely to avoid these videos.
Jebediah Reed: Gabe, this is what Trump trying to kiss up to the Establishment looks like…
Ed Kilgore: Millennial briefing note: Kasich alluding to the one famous moment in the 1988 vice presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle.
Gabriel Sherman: Jeb, I wonder how Trump’s base feels about this. CFR is the clubhouse for the Wall Street-Washington elite Trump’s supposedly running to overthrow.
Margaret H: Kasich notes “I knew Ronald Reagan. I’ll leave it right there, you can figure it out.” Holds off on going full “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Article Link
Ed Kilgore: Wonder how long Kasich has been planning his “I knew Ronald Reagan” litany? Must have been torture for him waiting for the first reference tonight.
Jonathan Chait: Kasich: “I touched the hem of Ronald Reagan’s garment. By the rules of this party, I am its rightful next leader.”
Jebediah Reed: Trump offers Richard Haass as a foreign policy voice he trusts – head of Council on Foreign Relations. I wonder how Haass feels about this
Margaret H: Baier asks Trump to name some of the “the best people” he’d turn to as foreign policy advisers. Shockingly, he actually comes up with some names.
Marin Cogan: Most candidates pivot from debate questions back to their talking points. Trump manages to always pivot back to slamming his opponents. It’s his greatest strength!
Jonathan Chait: Trump is up to 3-4 names of foreign policy advisors, up for 0 earlier in the campaign.
Ed Kilgore: I do believe these guys went about 45 minutes before Reagan was mentioned.
Jonathan Chait: How lucky for Cruz that the solution to modern problems is exact same as the solution to the problems of 1980. #ReaganForever
Margaret H: What would Trump do if the military refused his illegal order to waterboard detainees? “They’re not going to refuse me, believe me.” He says we should go “tougher” than waterboarding, and “If I say do it, they’re going to do it.” When in doubt, go with vague tough guy talk.
Ed Kilgore: Trump is appealing directly to the Jacksonian id of people who really do believe that once you are at war you kill every thing that moves. An amazing number of people feel that way.
Gabriel Sherman: Fascinating/scary that Baier asking Trump about military breaking chain of command in a Trump presidency. Military coup?
Jonathan Chait: This crowd sounds like a bunch of angry goons. Good synecdoche for a party that’s completely out of control.
Margaret H: Kasich, who loves a good GOP name drop, says he was called into the Pentagon after 9/11 “to help Rumsfeld with some of his difficulties.”
Ed Kilgore: It is pretty clear that Rubio and Cruz have honed in on the specific sins Trump is vulnerable on. Wonder how much focusing grouping went into this?
Jebediah Reed: Ed, I think both sides acknowledge that the conversation was recorded.
Gabriel Sherman: Ted Cruz nicely slips in a “Manhattan” reference to that last answer. They’re clearly trying to tie Trump to NYT, cast him as a New York liberal masking a a conservative. Continuation of Rubio con man attack.
Ed Kilgore: Does anyone know if there is a New York Times tape? Cruz is talking like it’s edited and transcribed and ready to be released if only The Donald would stop preventing it?
Margaret H: Trump tells Cruz, “You’re the liar, you’re the lying guy up here. You’re the one.” “I’ve given my answer, lying Ted. Let’s leave it there.”
Jebediah Reed: Trump’s newly humble affect again on display in saying he’s “changing” his position on skilled worker visas – to Megyn Kelly no less. He says it almost like an apology
Margaret H: Cruz says “Marco’s dad started as a bartender, my dad started out washing dishes.” Now the candidates are reciting each other’s stump speeches.
Ed Kilgore: I’ll say this for Cruz…he didn’t rise to the TrusTed bait from Megyn Kelly.
Margaret H: Kelly accuses Trump of “playing to people’s fantasies,” which is a tactic he describes in “The At of the Deal.
Margaret H: Kelly asks Trump about his shifting policy on skilled worker visas. “I’m changing. We need highly skilled people in this country.”
Margaret H: Trump tells Kelly he won’t release off the record conversations with journalists because “I have too much respect for that process.” Earlier he raised the possibility of suing journalists who write negative stories about him.
Gabriel Sherman: Also, gotta love how Fox demonizes the “liberal media” but is happy to frame a debate question by quoting a Buzzfeed article about a New York Times ed board meeting.
Gabriel Sherman: At Fox, the word was the Megyn would be “professional” tonight. He first measured exchange with Trump shows that.
Gabriel Sherman: Trump’s response to Megyn on what he told NYT Ed board pivots to journalistic ethics. From a guy who wants to sue newspapers out of business.
Ed Kilgore: I actually agree with Trump on discussing off-the-record conversations.
Margaret H: Cruz says “Donald Trump has written checks to Hillary Clinton 10 times.” Four were to a presidential campaign. Trump gives usual answer - he’s a businessman, supports politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Ed Kilgore: This is Cruz’ version of Rubio’s prefab attack on Trump in the CNN debate.
Ed Kilgore: Would be funny if the dude who’s spent over half his life in public office comes out ahead in any Republican debate this year.
Ed Kilgore: Oh my God. Kasich just dissed the people who worship at the Balanced Budget shrine.
Margaret H: GOP front-runner just said he hopes no one considers him a politician right now.
Margaret H: Cruz tells Trump supporters he knows they’re angry, but “for 40 years Donald has been part of the corruption in Washington that you’re angry about.”
Margaret H: Who told the Fox moderators they’re allowed to confront the candidates with facts? It’s this kind of diserespectful behavior that got John Dickerson booed a few debates ago.
Ed Kilgore: Is Cruz about to get Full Screen #3?
Ed Kilgore: If Fox did this kind of analysis of the fiscal policies of all the candidates, we might make some progress here.
Margaret H: Trump is repeating “Don’t worry about it little Marco, I will.” Wallace warns him, “you’ve got to do better than that,” tries to get him to answer a policy question rather than just shouting childish insults.
Jebediah Reed: Rubio’s strategy tonight seems to be riling up Trump
Margaret H: Rubio notes that Trump is dishing out attacks about him being a “little guy” because he doesn’t want to answer the question.
Ed Kilgore: Wolf Blitzer is feeling a lot better about now.
Ed Kilgore: First time I can recall Trump going all wonky (currency devaluation) in response to a personal attack.
Margaret H: Will Trump commit to moving clothing manufacturing business to the US? “They devalue their currencies and they make it impossible for clothing manufacturers to do clothing in this country.” So, no.
Margaret H: Trump to Rubio: “this little guy” has lied so much about my record.
Ed Kilgore: Funny, I thought the media didn’t write Kasich off enough after SC, NV and Super Tuesday. He got a mulligan. Churlish of him to keep whining.
Eric Levitz: Kasich promises to win Ohio. Implies that no candidate can get a majority of delegates before the convention.
Margaret H: Baier says a contested convention is Kasich’s only path to victory. Kasich admits “we’re all really there.”
Margaret H: Kasich claims he’d beat Hillary by more than 11 points. Poll expert Trump says “in one poll.”
Ed Kilgore: Has Romney figured out who’s supposed to win Michigan, where this debate is happening?
Margaret H: Rubio is challenging Trump on who’d beat Hillary nationally. Polls are Trump’s favorite topic. Not a smart move.
Eric Levitz: Trump’s most serious, self-righteous tone is reserved for defending his expertise on his own polling.
Margaret H: Rubio says Trump is “someone who thinks the nuclear triad is a rock band from the ‘80s.” So he’s still going on the attack, he’s just taken things down a notch from bed wetting.
Eric Levitz: how many gop voters know that the nuclear triad is not a band from the 1980s?
Ed Kilgore: You’d think Trump might mention that one recent poll in FL showed him beating Rubio one-on-one.
Margaret H: Trump notes that he keeps hearing Cruz is the only one who can beat him, but he’s doing very poorly in the primaries. He’s not wrong.
Jebediah Reed: Trump is clearly trying to more genial, conciliatory. Still mocking others, but his tone is less intense
Ed Kilgore: Cruz seems determined to insist that inflation is out of control. In an earlier debate, he used this ridiculous assertion to justify tight money policies.
Eric Levitz: Ted Cruz says struggling workers don’t need empty slogans. They need a flat tax that will shift the revenue burden from the rich onto them!
Ed Kilgore: Audience seems to enjoy Trump penis assurance…where’s the blue-nosed religious right when you need it?
Margaret H: Trump says Rubio is “really not that much of a lightweight,” holds up his hands to prove they’re not small. Adds, “I guarantee you there’s no problem” with his other appendages. The 2016 GOP race, folks.
Eric Levitz: The Republican front-runner just guaranteed America that his penis is large.
Margaret H: Baier notes that once upon a time, Rubio said he wasn’t about personal attacks – so why is he talking about Trump wetting his pants all of a sudden? Rubio says Trump deserves it. That may be true, but real reason is now he’s desperate.
Eric Levitz: To see Trump’s aversion to white supremacists, check out his Twitter account. (RTs of @whitegenocide are not endorsements).
Ed Kilgore: “Take a look at my Twitter account” could be Trump’s slogan.
Margaret H: Wallace brings up the Trump KKK controversy and the crowd boos.
Ed Kilgore: Trump reminds me of a congressman I once overheard saying: “I’m all for exports…it’s those imports I have a problem with.”
Eric Levitz: Trump says he believes in free trade, but objects to the way Romney says the words “China” and “Japan” without transparent contempt in his voice.
Margaret H: A lot of people on Twitter are having problems streaming the debate. We’d expect these kinds of technical difficulties from MSNBC, but not you, Fox News.
Jebediah Reed: First question to Trump!
Ed Kilgore: High-pitched screamers for Rubio seem to have migrated from Houston to Detroit.
Ed Kilgore: Do you suppose when they ask Trump about Mitt’s comments tonight they will mention that Michigan is his native state?
Jebediah Reed: Bill O’Reilly promises to be unbiased tonight – and that he will give his opinion after the debate of who won
Ed Kilgore: Guess Fox was not impressed by the hundreds of complaints about the live audience at the last CNN debate.
Ed Kilgore: I’m seeing a double rainbow through my living room window. Does that mean a non-insane GOP debate tonight?