The frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination wanted to guarantee you “there's no problem” with the size of his dick. He also wanted you to hear his new frat boy-funny nicknames for his rivals: “Lyin' Ted” and “Little Marco.” Then “Lyin' Ted” ate what looked like a booger (or, to be more precise, post-nasal drip) on live national television.
That's pretty much how the Fox News debate in Detroit went last night, despite some good-faith efforts from the moderators. For instance, Chris Wallace pressed Donald Trump about his insane promise to cut $500 billion in government spending, something that eliminating the Department of Education and Environmental Protection Agency wouldn't even cover. Trump gave a rambling response about drug prices, Medicare, and – well, we're not sure what else: “I'm not only talking about drugs, I'm talking about other things. We'll save more than $300 billion a year if we negotiate. We don't negotiate.”
What's unclear at this point is what role Ted Cruz will play in what appears to be the Republican Party's death spiral (or, if you're somehow still an optimist about this stuff, the building of whatever conservative political movement rises up to either reclaim or supplant the GOP). With the party scrambling to figure out what, if any options are still on the table to scuttle a Trump nominee for president, the two guys waiting in the wings are still Cruz and Marco Rubio. Mitt Romney's late-in-the-game plan to save the GOP hasn't yet anointed a candidate to rally the Trump-hating wing of the party. Who knows if it's even possible for the GOP establishment to contest what's starting to look like the clear will of early Republican primary voters without alienating a bunch of people and throwing the election to the Democrats.
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Rubio clearly knows he's the logical choice on stage for moderate Republicans who may not like him but want anyone but Trump to be the nominee (that is, if you, like everyone else this campaign season, ignore Ohio Gov. John Kasich). That's probably why he took the Trump-bashing lead Thursday night. Sure, Cruz would love to be that consolidate-the-leftovers candidate, but he isn't exactly known for playing nice. In fact, his acerbic style of politics has only become more alienating throughout the campaign. Cruz being unlikeable has actually become sort of a joke; it hasn't helped that his campaign has spread obviously false rumors about other candidates, like that that they mocked the Bible or dropped out ahead of the first major GOP caucus.
And Cruz's performance Thursday night was, well, weird. It wasn't just him ignoring and then eating some little white-ish blob hanging from his lip while talking about budget cuts. His best one-liners, the kind meant to both 1) insult Trump and 2) convince voters that a former George W. Bush campaign staffer who clerked for a chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is the anti-establishment outsider candidate, were confusing and robotic. Like when he said, “For 40 years, Donald has been part of the corruption in Washington that you're angry about.” (Huh?) While Rubio and Trump patronizingly told each other to chill out, Cruz made fun of yoga.
Basically, the debate looked a lot like last week's, when the candidates yelled at each other for two and a half hours at the University of Houston campus. Most of the attacks on Trump last night came from Rubio, who spoke with even more frustrated urgency than before. Maybe that's because he's keenly aware the GOP house is on fire. For Trump, and the alarming number of supporters he's gained by demonizing Mexican- and Muslim-Americans, it's still more like a bonfire kegger.