The GOP presidential debate on CBS last night was a raucous affair. Donald Trump did his best to fend off attacks from all sides at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina. I half expected President Merkin Muffley from Stanley Kubrick′s ″Dr. Strangelove″ to shout at the candidates, ″Gentlemen! You can′t fight in here, this is the Peace Center!″ But fight they did with the Palmetto State primary just a week away. The battle on stage also left wounds on Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. Only John Kasich and Ben Carson escaped damage as they tried to take the ′high road′ of civility. What impact, if any, will this debate have on the South Carolina primary next Saturday? How did the sudden news of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia effect the debate? Let us review the action…
The debate was moderated by CBS host John Dickerson who was supported by Major Garrett and Kimberly Strassel. A moment of silence for Scalia was observed, after which, Trump was asked about if Obama should appoint a replacement? Trump said that Obama would but called on Senator Mitch McConnell to ″DELAY, DELAY, DELAY!″, any confirmation vote until after the elections. The rest of the candidates did so as well. Trump won the round as he was the only one to actually name possible replacements, Diane Sykes or Bill Pryor. Jeb Bush flubbed his answer on whether he would use a litmus test. He said he wouldn′t but then said he′d base his selection on past record. Uh? Me thinks the guac bowl on Jeb′s head is too tight!
After the Scalia-kumbaya moment, the debate turned ugly. Bush and Trump sparred over Syria, ISIS and Assad, with Trump blasting Jeb on involving us in another civil war. Then he called Jeb′s brother, Bush′43, a liar and should have been impeached for invading Iraq. Cruz and Rubio tried to throw in their 2-cents but Trump kept attacking Jeb, blaming the World Trade Center being destroyed on George W. They fought again later in the debate over Trump′s bad language and Jeb′s desire to remove his pants and moon reporters! Jeb looked like somebody took a dump in his guac bowl.
Cruz and Rubio went after each other on immigration, again! Rubio nailed Cruz as a liar and Cruz proved he could speak Spanish, making Rubio look really stupid. Meanwhile, Kasich and Carson, who played book-ends last night, stayed out of the line of fire. Both made their cases on their tax plans and other programs. So I doubt if they suffered any negative effects from the debate. Whether their calm, middle-of-the-road attitudes will help them is another question? Most of the polls so far show only a small percentage of Undecided, about 5%, and with a whole week to go, I kind of doubt if we will see any major shifts by election day.
So the big take-away from last night′s 9th GOP debate was that the four-way battle between Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz is still with us. No knock-out blows were landed and everyone other than John Kasich and Ben Carson got ruffled. Frankly, I don′t see the CBS debate having much of an impact down the road, which equates to a Trump victory. CNN will host a two-night, town hall style affair on Wednesday and Thursday, with three candidates per evening. That may prove to be more significant in changing some minds in the last hours before the South Carolina primary.