gop-debate-iowa
I have to say that it was a pleasure watching a debate without Donald Trump on the stage. I didn't have to watch him make stupid faces or listen to his verbal diarrhea. There were some great moments but more importantly, what the debate did was show how great of a race this would be if Donald Trump were not involved. In any event, as in the past I will give you what I took away from the debate. Feel free to disagree or curse me out in the comments.

1. Ted Cruz is off without Donald Trump on the stage - Kirsten Powers said Cruz does better with Trump on the stage playing the foil and I agree. Because Trump wasn't there, Cruz was in effect, the leader and sights were set on him. He stumbled as a result. When you're on top, people are going to gun for you (unless you're Mike Murphy and you spend $20 million on behalf of Jeb Bush going after everybody except for the guy at the top - for the most part) and Cruz was off his game as a result. He didn't do badly but he didn't do as well as he could have.

2. Chris Christie had his best debate yet - Yes the, "I have to take responsibility" line is wearing a whole hell of a lot thinner than he is. But he still had a really solid debate. He was funny and self deprecating and that comes across well to the average person. His answers were strong and along with Marco Rubio, he actually measures what he says against the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, not just his Republican rivals.

3. John Kasich is hoping for a miracle in New Hampshire - He's at the point where nobody really seems to care what he says. His smarmy "I did this and I did that" will never save him from the fact that he supports Common Core and expanded Medicaid in Ohio (aka supported Obamacare). He can talk about the good ole days of 1999 for as long as he wants. It will not save him. Go away John. Please.

4. The talking heads are going to think Rubio did ok, but everyday people will be impressed - Here's why. For the last 5-6 months, those of us who follow politics closely have been paying attention. Many other people have not. So tonight as we are close to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, many people who have not been paying attention, are doing so now. And Rubio looked really good. What we may have seen as "stumbles" on immigration, looked like pretty good responses. He's going to look good especially to those who are just starting to really start taking a look at the candidates.

5. Donald Trump hurt himself by not being there - No, Joe Scarborough, this does not mean I think he is going to flame out by tomorrow afternoon. What I am saying is, it made him look weak. This was not done from a position of strength and contrary to what the fools over at the site named for Andrew Breitbart are saying, it was not some pre-planned "genius" move by him. It was a temper tantrum. He thought Fox News would fold and he was wrong.

So how did I rank the debate?

1. Rubio

2. Christie

3. Paul

4. Cruz

5. Jeb

6. Does it matter at this point?

What do you think?