Yeah, I watched the debates last night, both of them, and they weren't as much of a waster of time as I had feared. Certainly it wasn't possible to get an in-depth look at anybody since they all had so little time to speak. But it helps sorting all 17 of them out to just get an overview.
I agree with just about every other critic out there that Carly Fiorina won the Happy Hour debate handily. In fact, she was the most impressive of them all in both debates. If this doesn't propel her to the first tier, something's wrong somewhere. She knows the issues, foreign and domestic, inside out and never gets flustered by a hard question. I also think she stated, more clearly than anybody, what the presidential race is about. Listening to all the other candidates, it seems to be about ordinary people versus the Washington political class or insiders versus outsiders. What it is, said Fiorina, is a contest between conservatism and progressivism. Precisely. Focus!
In the main debate, Donald Trump had a chance to show a mature, responsible side. Instead, he chose to be Donald Trump. Can you imagine having to listen to that puffed-up blowhard for four years as president?
Everybody else at least held their own. The dustup between Chris Christie and Rand Paul over privacy and terrorism was fun. I liked Ben Carson a lot. Jeb Bush looked and sounded so, I don't know, last generation, that it made Marco Rubio's enthusiastic optimism about this country seem even more refreshing than usual. FWIW, I think Rubio did the best job in the main debate.
I also liked the panel of questioners, who some people think were showboating or playing gotcha or something. I think they asked good questions. It looked to me like they were specifically trying, in the first volley, to come up with the one question each candidate would feel most uncomfortable answering. That was a good way to let the candidates -- and viewers -- know the evening was going to be serious.