Donald Trump Ted Cruz boxingDonald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have podiums at tonight’s CBS News GOP debate, what with Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie having dropped out after their disappointing finishes in the New Hampshire primary this week. It’s the final debate setting for the New Hampshire survivors before the South Carolina primary February 20.
 Count on at least one line of questioning about the Supreme Court, with today’s death of its most conservative justice, and 
and Obama having said moments before the debate, that he is going to name a replacement and expects the Senate to move on it lickety-split.
Meanwhile, a lot has happened since the candidates last took swings at each other onstage at the last debate.

 Bush celebrated a birthday. Trump called Cruz a liar. Trump said this:

And this:

Trump also swore off swearing, after TV news networks interviewed South Carolinians who said they might not vote for him because of his potty mouth — and his lack of credible religiosity. On that topic, Trump blasted Pope Francis as a “very political person” because he’s in Mexico and planned to celebrate Mass at the U.S. Border.

Also Smear Ad Season got going in earnest, though Cruz stumbled out of the gate when he had to pull a TV commercial called “Conservatives Anonymous because word got out one of the actors’ resume includesKinky Sex Club, Milf, Carnal Wishes and Sex Sent Me to the ER.

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Filmed intro starts with Trump and ended with Trump.  Rushed to get Supreme Court justice Scalia death dealt with.

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Trump on Scalia replacement: Delay, delay, delay

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Kasich’s Impossible Dream: Obama changes his mind about naming Scalia’s replacement.

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Rubio: “It’s been over 80 years since lame duck president got to pick a Supreme Court justice.”

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Rubio got through a speech without any re-wind!

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Apparently I was mistaken:

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Dickerson called them on the 80 year gag, by bringing up Abe Fortas and got Cruz to acknowledge it happened but Fortas was not approved. 

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Wink and nod to evangelicals by Cruz: Big issue in Supreme Court justice replacement is “religious liberty”

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Trump tacks to the middle, reminds people about his opposition to Iraq war — and that his first question in office is “Who we gonna hit.”

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20 minutes in and no crosstalk among candidates yet, despite invitation to “attack” by Dickerson

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Ben Carson: Still Counting Questions:  “Thank you for including me in the debate – two questions already. This is great.”

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Ben Carson: “Yes, 2 AM phone calls as doctor prepared me for 2 AM phone calls in White House.” 
Do we get malpractice insurance?

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First mention by candidate by another candidate. Bush mentions Trump in re Russia.

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Don’t adjust your sets: Donald Trump is that orange.
First boos of the night: Trump: Jeb is so wrong.”  Again pulls the “that’s Jeb’s special interest group reps in the hall.”

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Cruz knocks Obama for “nation building.” Thought last Bush patented that phrase.

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Trump asked if he still believes George W. should have been impeached. His reponse:  “Obviously war in Iraq big fat mistake…. That one was a beauty. You call it whatever you want.  They lied! Said weapons of mass destruction and they knew there were none!”
It’s like Trump wandered in from the Dem debate.

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Bush gets to respond to Trump and goes with: I love my mom, my dad and my brother.”

Trump responds she should be running.

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Rubio jumps in to thank George W. for “keeping us safe.”
Trump: “How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center came down. I lost hundreds of friends.” For which he’s wildly booed.
Trump the bravest guy in the room? 

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Stage seems to want to isolate Trump and line up with G W Bush and Iraq war policy. That’s a pretty big bet: GOP voters want to own Iraq.

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Cruz wants to keep his hands off the 106-year-olds Trump said are gumming up Social Security and focus on Magic Pixie Dust….

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Now Kasich wanders in from the Dem debate, talking up Medicaid — but does not get booed. Sticking with his Mr. Positive Position.

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Cheekiest interruption by moderator in any debate to date: Dickerson cuts off Carson when Carson talks over the bell, saying they’re cutting to commercial because ,”The free market wants what it wants.”

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Minus Christie-demon popping up at him, Rubio’s looking far more self possessed tonight.

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Rubio supporters shrieking disapproval at Cruz who appropriates Trump’s line dismissing audience booing “The Donor Class.”

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Cruz accuses Rubio of going on Univision — and speaking Spanish!
Rubio’s response: Cruz lies….he lies…he lies…

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Bush says he wants to channel his inner Chris Christie and point out Sen Cruz and Sen Rubio are debating about “arcane amendments to bills that didn’t pass.”
I’ve heard Chris Christie, and you, sir, are no Chris Christie.

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Trump reports Bush threatened to take his pants off and moon people.

Bush “I want to make sure, in case my mother’s listening: “I didn’t say I would moon anybody.”

Kasich, going all ‘I’m the adult in the room’: We’re fixing to lose to Hillary Clinton if we knock this off. 

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Ben Carson: The Human Search Engine

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In case you were wondering what Trump was talking about before the break:

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Trump and Cruz begin to pound on each other. Trump: You are the single biggest liar. Today we had robo-calls saying ,’Donald Trump is not running in South Carolina, vote for Ted Cruz’  when I’m leading in the polls.

Dickerson finally interrupts:  “We are in danger of driving us into the dirt.”

This is like Caesar in the Forum: A bunch of politicians with their knives out…

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Ben Carson has a moment, little late following Kasich, but manages to bring in Scalia….

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Dickerson asks Carson to say something politically incorrect.

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Dickerson asks Trump about his potty mouth. Trump: I made many speeches…to highlight something I used profanity….I never said F*&%#…you bleeped me and made it sound like I had said it…I will not do it again. I was a very good student at a great school. Not using profanity is very easy.

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Dickerson’s new best line: “Bells are ringing”

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Closing statements — my how the time flies when you’re having a meltdown:
Kasich: The lord made all of us special. the lord wants us all to be connected. Spirit of America doesn’t come from top down. Heal this country. Lift it for everyone.

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Ben Carson: I am member of We the People. Country heading off cliff. Stalin said  if you want to undermine America undermine its spiritual life, its patriotism, its morality. I’m accountable to everybody.

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Jeb Bush: Who you want to see sittin’ behind the big desk in Oval Office. I did it as Governor of Florida.. loads of hurricanes. We need someone with servant’s heart.

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Rubio: Thank you for watching. Difficult time in our country. Culture in trouble. Wrong is the new right. Right is the new wrong.. America’s reputation in decline.  Marriage between one man and one woman. Life starts at conception. We will make 21st century a new American century

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Cruz: South Carolina you have critical choice to make. Country hangs in balance. Do you want another Washington deal-maker? Do you want proven conservative?  Supreme Court hangs in the balance. Calm. Steady. Secure borders.

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Trump: Politicians are all talk, no action. You’ve seen where they’ve taken you to.  We don’t win any more. We are not going to be controlled by specials interests and lobbyists. I’m working for you I’m not working for anybody else.

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Ben Carson’s gag about Stalin’s quote? Never happened, says Snopes:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/undermine.asp

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And, in conclusion: The GOP candidates all mooned gravitas tonight. Good night.