DEBATE REPORT CARD: Jeb’s Nursing Works! Rubio Memorizes Too Few Zingers! Kasich Still Sober!

Read
(credit: iStock)

The first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary is just two days away (!), and 7 of the 9 remaining GOP candidates met Saturday night in Manchester to duke it out in advance of that all-important contest. Tonight saw some big breakout moments from also-rans Jeb Bush and Chris Christie along with some embarrassing dives from Iowa golden boys Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio.

While certain young and waifish members of CAFE’s election team are in New Hampshire to report on the primary (ed. note: follow cafedotcom on snapchat), this veteran reporter chose to watch the action from the tranquility and warmth of his Park Slope studio abode. Frankly, I prefer being here, and not where the action is. Without further ado, here are my expert report card grades for the GOP hopefuls:

Jeb Bush

Sticktoitiveness

Being Right All Along

Oedipal Powers

Established Wisdom

I Told You That They Would See How Bad You Looked

Now Who’s Unpopular?

FINAL GRADE

A

A+

A+

A-

A

A

A+

Jeb finally made good on $3.4 billion dollars of advertising and other campaign costs tonight. Fresh on the heels of a week with his mother, the former governor savaged rival Donald Trump on eminent domain. For the first time, the crowd cheered for Jeb and booed Trump, and Jeb seemed emboldened by the smell of blood. Now, Jeb probably hasn’t breastfed for over 60 years, but one must remark on the nurturing powers of his strong mother. The milk was practically dripping off Jeb’s lips as he won big applause with exciting talking points on reasonable border reform and marginal military spending increases. If Jeb can just stay physically close to Barbara for the rest of the campaign, he should be able to metaphorically unhinge his jaw and devour Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

Comeuppance

Not So Nice When It’s Happening To You, Huh?

Taste Your Own Medicine Much?

That’s What Happens When You Try To Act Like The Rules Don’t Apply To You

I’m Not Afraid Of You Anymore

Now How’s Laughing?

FINAL GRADE

C

B-

D

C-

C

D

C

The Donald finally realized what it felt like to be on the other end of the boos. Yes, as someone who’s stood up to Trump at a rally before, I would love to take pleasure in this. As a journalist, however, all I can do is objectively report. Yes, it cost Jeb Bush $170 million dollars to fly in his most fervent supporters, but they more than pulled their weight by viciously booing the real estate mogul during that eminent domain exchange. Trump’s next move from here will either be to double down by insulting Jeb Bush’s children, or to try and retreat by delivering that apology that Jeb Bush demanded on behalf of his wife all those months ago. One thing’s for sure, it’s a family affair!

Chris Christie

Stump Speech Identification

Repetition Noting

Duhhh Dose Things Youse Sayin Are Just Da Same Things

Reluctance

To Go To New Jersey

Storm Preparedness

I Was Covered In Sidewalk Salt

FINAL GRADE

A+

A

A

C-

C

B

A-

After weeks of supply problems, treachery, and plummeting poll numbers, the Christie campaign mounted a desperate counteroffensive on the Southern Front against Sen. Marco Rubio. Christie’s break-out maneuver involved exploiting the overly-cautious Rubio’s fatal inability to memorize more than 100 words in a row. Christie hammered Rubio over and over then bravely absorbed the young tomcat’s counterattacks over whether Christie had avoided going back to New Jersey to handle last month’s blizzard. Yet Rubio miscalculated here, not counting on most Americans having an aversion to going to New Jersey for any reason and sympathizing with the Governor. Casualties are mounting in the cold hills of New Hampshire as Christie’s campaign staffers fall to alcohol overdoses and accidents related to doing donuts in Lowe’s parking lots. But tonight showed that the Governor still has fight in him. Time will tell if the same is true for his troops.

Marco Rubio

Glitching

Polish

Polish (Nationality)

Chris Christie Hatred

Obama

Obama

FINAL GRADE

F

B-

Maybe?

Inexplicable

You Don’t Like Him

We Get It!

D+

Marco Rubio came with a well-rehearsed line of attack on President Obama, gambling that GOP rank-and-file voters don’t like him, and that if he says he doesn’t like them he’ll get their votes. That’s a savvy strategy on the stump, but in the boiler room of the debate stage, viewers expect more variety and flavor. They want candidates to surprise them, make them laugh, and produce epic viral moments they can memeify to their friends. Marco failed on all those counts. Hopefully for him the callow Senator will learn from the bopping he got from Gov. Christie and bring to the next debate the exciting one-liners and crazy, totally random stuff we election-watchers have come to expect.

Ted Cruz

Ableism

Misleading The Blind

Body Type

Uncanny Valley

Eye Contact

Legal Mumbo-Jumbo

FINAL GRADE

F

F

Bowling Pin

D

D

Not Buyin’ It, Senator

D-

Right out of the gate Cruz was made to answer to his campaign’s dirty tricks in Iowa, where his people falsely reported that Ben Carson had dropped out just minutes before the Caucus. The Senate debate champ gave a long, convoluted answer full of legalese and “post hoc ergo propter hoc” to explain why he shouldn’t be blamed for the thing he did. Sorry, Senator, but I think I speak for most Americans when I say we’re sick and tired of being talked down to by fancy, high-priced lawyers and know-it-all family court “judges.” Exhibit A: the enduring success of plucky, pro se litigant John Kasich.

Ben Carson

The Lord Could See For His Prophet Who Could Not

A Man Who Waits Is Anointed

“You Cannot Comprehend My Answers” Answered The Lord

The Children Of God Are Most Confused Before Salvation

Be Upon Us, Softness In Voice

The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

FINAL GRADE

C

B-

C-

B+

C

D

C+

The late night talk show jokers are going to have a field day with the viral video of Ben Carson missing his cue on stage. But while it did look bad, I for one am unable to bring myself to titter at a wise blind man’s hesitance to walk out without the help of a guide dog or cane. Candidate after candidate blithely walked past Dr. Carson, failing to help him as if he were a bum in the gutter. Ted Cruz, fresh from spreading rumors of Carson’s suicide in Iowa, nearly knocked him down. Fortunately, Donald Trump, the richest candidate on stage, stopped to help the kindly doctor to his podium. I may not agree with Trump’s rancor and pro-pogrom policies, but I admire the man’s sense of decency and charity.

John Kasich

Months Clean

Recidivism

Weatheredness

Priors

Warrants

Second Chances

FINAL GRADE

3

B-

A-

B-

B+

B

B+

Something about New Hampshire just agrees with Kasich. Maybe it’s the “Live Free Or Die” state motto that seems to be a very personal coda for the nomadic governor. Maybe it’s kinship he feels with New Hampshirites, who spend most of their time filming police officers, demanding to know if they’re being detained. Arguing with authority figures is, after all, a huge theme of the Kasich lifestyle/campaign. Whatever it is, the Ohioan feels so comfortable around his fellow heroin addicts/cranks/itinerants in the Northeast that he can comfortably launch into long, meandering diatribes about immigration, the Middle East, and abortion without restraint. It used to be that Kasich would only make an outburst so his daughter would know he was on TV, or to remind arena security he was supposed to be there. Those days are long gone. Kasich’s new slogan, “You Don’t Have Any Legitimate Authority Over Me” says it all.

Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at carl@cafe.com or Tweet to @carl_diggler.