UPDATE: For the results from March 3rd Fox News Debate tonight, please click here.
Wow. There's almost no other way to start an analysis of this epic debate. Finally - finally - Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio understood that Donald Trump is a genuine front runner and acted accordingly. The result was a series of sparks that the GOP field has not yet seen before. Cruz and Rubio disagreed only perfunctorily, if at all, and focused sustained fire on Trump, who stammered and stumbled his way through the onslaught. At various parts of the debate, Cruz and Rubio actually cited each other.
This is the debate that the Republican party has deserved at least since November. It's sad that it took this long for us to have it, but better late than never, I suppose.
Also, two delusional idiots were there.
Without further adieu, let's break down the winners and losers.
1. Marco Rubio - I will be quite honest, I had very serious doubts that Marco Rubio had a performance like this in him. Rubio absolutely toyed with Trump throughout the debate, absolutely demolishing Trump on his healthcare plan, demanding to know if Trump had anything to add other than "allow insurers across state lines." After it was clear, after about four tries, that Trump did not, Rubio nailed Trump: "Sounds like you're repeating yourself." Trump tried to fire back: "I saw you in a debate a couple weeks ago repeat yourself five times." Rubio: "I saw you repeat yourself five times five seconds ago!" Rubio attacked Trump the first question out of the gate and hung on to him all night long, from the foreign workers at his hotel, to the flip flops on his immigration policy, to his lack of understanding on foreign policy issues.
What's more, Rubio was clearly having fun as he eviscerated Trump with a giant grin on his face the entire time. Rubio eating Trump alive looked like Steph Curry when he gets to play the 76ers - better than his opponent and having a lot of fun proving it.
I said earlier today that Marco Rubio needed to either beat Donald Trump tonight or go home. He beat Donald Trump.
1a. Ted Cruz - Ted Cruz's performance tonight was, quite simply, awesome. On any other night, Cruz would have been the clear winner. Cruz also hounded and badgered Trump continually, exposing him as a life-long supporter of Democrats without an ideological compass. Cruz and Rubio were a brilliant tag team against Trump - Rubio exposed Trump as ill-informed and a paper tiger, and Cruz exposed Trump as a liberal. Rubio won on style points, but barely.
Cruz has been justly criticized - even by his own surrogates like Amanda Carpenter - for his rhetorical inflexibility lately. He showed absolutely none of that tonight. He focused on the issues that matter to people and eliminated the applause lines. This guy could expand his base, unlike the one who's been around on the campaign trail the last month and a half.
1. Donald Trump - Here's what a bad night it was for Trump. In the middle of a completely innocuous question from moderator Hugh Hewitt, which was not in any way attacking Trump, Trump out of nowhere slammed Hewitt with "No one listens to your show." In the span of 20 seconds, he said "I don't believe anything Telemundo says," and "I love Telemundo. Everything is fine." Literally within the same answer. The belief this entire time has been that Donald Trump cannot be rattled in a debate. Tonight proved that it is not true. It's one thing to expose Trump as a liberal; what the other Republican candidates did tonight was to expose Trump as a lightweight. Trump has gotten away for months with not having answers to anything because no one has pressed him on the point. Tonight, that ended, and he looked like a child.
1. John Kasich - We all needed some bathroom breaks.
2. Ben Carson - We all needed some naps.