Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus is telling the  boys he wants them to play nice tonight, calling for “more of a G-rated” debate in Miami.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, assures debate broadcaster CNN he intends to be “softer” onstage tonight than at recent debates. But with Mitt Romney’s Never Trump movement “mortally wounded,” he intends to “knock out” Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on his way to winning their states’ winner-takes-all primaries next weeek, giving him a lock on the GOP nom. “If you knock ’em out, nothing can happen,” Trump explained, reasonably. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be there tonight too, with Jake Tapper moderating the moderators.

This is going to go really well. Here’s how we see it.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:27 pm

Tonight’s debate is Part 1 of a Donald
Trump Two Parter. Tomorrow he’s staging another former candidate hostage taking – this time Ben Carson. Carson, who last week suspended his campaign for the GOP nom, is announcing his endorsement of Trump according to….well nearly everyone is reporting it tonight.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:28 pm

Tonight’s debate is Part 1 of a Donald Trump Two Parter. Tomorrow he’s staging another former candidate hostage taking – this time Ben Carson. Carson, who last week suspended his campaign for the GOP nom, is announcing his endorsement of Trump according to….well nearly everyone is reporting it tonight.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:30 pm

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:32 pm

Hi Tony!

https://twitter.com/MrTonySays/status/708100855954857986

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:33 pm

“Now, the stage is set for an intense debate about who should lead the Republicans and the nation.” Gawd, CNN’s intro sounds like an NFL playoff game.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:33 pm

And it looks like there’s gonna be a pregame show. Bait and switch.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:34 pm

CNN’s making loads of friends with this bait and switch:

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:35 pm

Extending the metaphor, CNN’s screen looks like ESPN’s with all graphics, crawl and “here’s what’s coming up” thing on the left.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:35 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:35 pm

Such a shameless play for an extra half-hour of ratings. 

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:37 pm

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:40 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:42 pm

“We’re just moments away,” Anderson Cooper says before going into a commercial that plug its own show. Define “moment.”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:43 pm

Chris Cuomo: “You mess with the bull, you get the horns.”

Wait, I thought we got the “hands”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:43 pm

Keyword in Cuomo comment: “bull.”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:44 pm

Poke the anchors, you get the cliches.
Me, I avoid cliches like the plague.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:45 pm

What say we all boycott the products advertised before the debate starts?

C’mon, folks, gimme a hashtag. #YouBaitWeSwitch?

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:47 pm

Meanwhile, in HIllaryland:

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:47 pm

OK, I’m officially boycotting James Earl Jones. Where’s my VHS of The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings? To the dump with you!

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:48 pm

RNC chair Reince Priebus’s ringing endorsement of Trump, Cruz et al: “Can you at least agree with me that any one of these four gentlemen would be better than Hillary Clinton or a socialist?”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:49 pm

Reince Priebus — wasn’t that a character on Battlestar Galactica

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:51 pm

CNN’s John King just talked about tonight’s “enormous steaks”, er “stakes.”
As Trump would say, “I’ve never had any complaints about the size of my steaks.”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20165:52 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:53 pm

OK, this is a little “inside football,” but seeing as they’re at the University of Miami — anyone remember when Jerome Brown led his team to walk out of the pregame meal before the NCAA championship game in 1986. Wish I could follow his words and say, “Frllas, let’s go.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:53 pm

OK, this is a little “inside football,” but seeing as they’re at the University of Miami — anyone remember when Jerome Brown led his team to walk out of the pregame meal before the NCAA championship game in 1986. Wish I could follow his words and say, “Fellas, let’s go.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:54 pm

OK, only L.A.-based sports fans of a certain age will get that reference. On to the main event.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:56 pm

How did they determine the marching-onstage order? Triple coin flip.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20165:58 pm

Personal favorite memory of Nancy Reagan: When President Reagan had surgery on his nose for skin cancer and he and the First lady appeared at the second-floor window of the hospital to address reporters and the public. Someone asked a policy question that I don’t recall, and you could see Nancy mouth the words “we’re doing all we can.” Actor that he was, the president said on cue, “We’re doing all we can.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:00 pm

Kasich mentions Spirit of America. Every playing a drinking game involving Beach Boys albums … bottoms up.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:00 pm

Rubio is dry so far.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:01 pm

Ted Cruz. This election is about stopping Washington .

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:01 pm

Trump opens with the words “One of the biggest…”

Uh-oh…

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:02 pm

Trump: Millions of extra people. I love the extra people.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:02 pm

“The Democrat Party.” I thought that slight went out with Dubya. I’m calling them the Republics from here on.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:03 pm

“Catering to board rooms?” Who is he — the Jersey Mike’s delivery guy?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:04 pm

Mmmm … Jersey Mike’s.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:04 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:05 pm

Note to Kasich handlers: Don’t let your candidate giggle after he utters the words, “People will be out of work.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:05 pm

Laws ‘n’ regulations ‘n’ rules — oh my!

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:05 pm

Trump asked about his having brought in workers and making stuff in China.
Trump: “Nobody knows the system better than me. I know how to change it.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:06 pm

Note to Trump handlers: Don’t let your candidate have a flag lapel pin smaller than everyone else’s.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:07 pm

You down with TPP? Yeah you know me.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:07 pm

Jake Tapper: Bringing back the pocket square. Viewers are noticing.

Meanwhile, Cruz: pro TPA. Trump: pro H1-B.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:08 pm

On what James Bond amphibious vehicle are you “driving jobs overseas,” Ted?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:08 pm

(OK, I retract that last bad joke, your honor.)

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:09 pm

Rubio puts the “diss” in Disney.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:09 pm

Rubio: anti-Tata

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:10 pm

You know Trump is working hard to stifle a joke about Indian ta-tas.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:10 pm

That was probably him who coughed.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:11 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:12 pm

Disney’s excuse for sending American jobs overseas:

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:12 pm

Disappointingly substantive opening. Where are the well-endowed Executive Branch jokes.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:13 pm

If you shouldn’t be able to use it, maybe you should, Donnie Boy.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:13 pm

Trump: “Stop me before I use H1-B visas again.”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:14 pm

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:15 pm

So far Kasich and Cruz have now each come out for The Wall.  Wall envy.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:16 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:17 pm

Face it, Jake, Trump has called EVERYthing a disaster at onetime or another

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:18 pm

Trump says he’s  bringing in Carson to advise him on education. Particularly nap time. He just blew tomorrow’s big announcement.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:19 pm

So we take away from this that federal education standards are rotten to the Common Core?

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:20 pm

Ben Carson’s first assignment: Nap Time reform.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:20 pm

So we take away from this that federal education standards are rotten to the Common Core?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:22 pm

Rubio not working for the American People — he’s working for Mom.

And baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:23 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:23 pm

Looking at the polls, Rubio might be retiring a LOT sooner than 65.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:25 pm

Great, Social Security will run out just as my last kid gets out of college.

God bless America.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:25 pm

Trump’s Dem debate review: “Boring to watch.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:26 pm

Of course China’s GDP never could be zero — the Communist Party forces people to work.

Fail.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:28 pm

I’m callin’ dibs on that bumper sticker: “Fraud Is Not Enough”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:29 pm

Out-of-context Trump statement of the day: “I’ve been going over budgets.”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:29 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:30 pm

Of course Trump “doesn’t need anybody’s money” as long as the cable “news” nets cover every goddamn word he says live.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:30 pm

Trump message to Flordians: “I will not touch Social Security.”
He begins dancing dancing dancing when pressed for details by Dana and pressed by Rubio.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:31 pm

Cruz wakes up and says Trump thinks like a liberal.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:31 pm

Is this the longest CNN has gone without a commercial since that Malaysian plane went missing? Or rather, two months after that plane went missing?

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:32 pm

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:32 pm

Thanks to Cruz, “Magic wand” is tonight’s  “small hands.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:34 pm

Here’s a still from that time Cruz “took on ethanol in Iowa.”

He wasn’t using briquettes…

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:34 pm

Donald Trump: “I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:35 pm

Kasich is assuming today’s 18-year-olds will get jobs to be able to pay into Social Security.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:37 pm

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:38 pm

Donald Trump’s strategy: unnerve Cruz and Rubio with civility.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:39 pm

Horserace question:  Tapper asks Cruz  why Trump is so popular if Cruz is so  right?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:40 pm

No, China isn’t “dumping all they have over here” — more like dumping it in the South China Sea to create artificial islands.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:40 pm

Meanwhile, in Washington:

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:41 pm

Off camera, Rubio and Kasich are playing rock-paper-scissors.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:42 pm

Donald Trump: I will build a bigger Walmart. It will be a great Walmart.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:44 pm

Conspiracy theory alert: CNN is so enamored with plugging Trump and Trump’s plugging that the director cut to him at the precise and only time tonight that the candidate hawked one of his products:

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:45 pm

Apparently we’re going to get Calm Trump all night tonight and since Trump always sets the tone of GOP debates…..

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:46 pm

Ouch — did CNN just troll Ted Cruz with an Ancestry.com ad?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:48 pm

If Muslims hate us so much, how do you explain that out-of-nowhere Cat Stevens tour in 2014?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:49 pm

It’s power tie vs. power tie for Rubio and Trump tonight.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:50 pm

Tapper asks Trump what he meant when he told Anderson Cooper “Islam hates us” and did he mean all of them. “I mean a lot of them,” Trump shoots back. Tapper asks again if he wants to clarify.
“I’m talking about radical Islam, something is going on, maybe you don’t know about. And I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.”

Later:
“There is tremendous hate. Women are treated horribly. There is tremendous hatred. We better solve the problem before it’s too late.”

Rubio, who has woken up because Tapper handed him an opportunity, responds: “I’m not interested in being politically correct. I”m interested in being correct.”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:55 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:56 pm

And Hugh Hewitt finally gets to play.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:57 pm

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20166:58 pm

Cruz starts every answer with a pained sigh.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20166:59 pm

Whenever Trump says the Iran deal was “the worst deal I’ve ever seen negotiated” — and he says it a lot — I think, “How the hell would you know? You weren’t there.”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:00 pm

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:01 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:02 pm

I envision the Nobel guys engraving “Donald Trump” on the Peace Prize as we speak.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:03 pm

Arm the Kurds!

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:04 pm

Who is doing all the coughing up there? We demand answers!

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:04 pm

“Shock and Awe 2: Electric Bugaloo.”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:04 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:05 pm

Let’s see, where could we get 20,000-30,000 angry Americans to send over to the Middle East?

Oh yeah, any Trump rally!

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:06 pm

Whoa — line of the night: Rubio gives Bernie Sanders credit.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:07 pm

Now Rubio is endorsing firing Americans.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:09 pm

Will Jake Tapper bring up the single most important issue in Florida — the fact that the ocean is consuming it?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:12 pm

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:12 pm

Tapper tees Rubio up with a slow pitch, noting Obama heading to Cuba, marking first time in 88 years POTUS has done so. Before a question is asked, audience boos, in support of Rubio’s slam: “Only thing changed they now have more money.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:13 pm

Was that sound I just heard a faint heartbeat of Rubio’s chances to steal Florida next week?

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:14 pm

Rubio, on Trump saying Cuba will sue us if we pull out of the new arrangement. “I don’t know where Cuba’s going to sue us. If they sue us in court in Miami they’re going to lose.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:16 pm

Rubio’s been resuscitated:

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:16 pm

Inside Kasich’s head as he formulates a way to break in to the Cuba debate:

“Let’s see, hey, neither the Indians nor the Reds has a single Cuban player! Damn Yankees.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:18 pm

Arm the Ukrainians!

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:19 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:19 pm

Oooh, here we go. Climate change in a very soggy Miami Beach.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:20 pm

Rubio on climate change: Water levels rising because South Florida was built on a swamp.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:21 pm

Right now I picture Chris Christie using his remote to jump back and forth between the debate and Jeopardy!


What is “Born to Run!”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:22 pm

More Rubio on climate change: “People want Washington to pass a law to change the weather.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:23 pm

Colin Powell? Wow, that’s a blast from the past.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:24 pm

Big contrast to Dem debate: Kasich just runs down list of solar power, wind power, etc. to dead silence in the room. They are not applause lines here.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:24 pm

Jimmy Carter — the guy who brought Egypt and Israel together? That guy?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:27 pm

Trump: “I used to think Werkel was a strong leader … until this happened”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:27 pm

Tapper quotes Trump on ‘Chinese acted with strength putting down Tienamin Square.’

“Strong doesn’t mean good,” Trump responds.
Tapper tail between legs.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:28 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:29 pm

These hawks onstage need a collective symbol. I propose:

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:30 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:31 pm

Re that ad a minute ago: “The intelligent all-new Audi Q7 was engineered to help sense danger before you do.”

Man, that machine must be going nuts right now.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:32 pm

Of course the American Institute of Architects would advertise during the GOP debate. They want that to wrest that wall contract from the Mexicans. Keep the jobs here at home!

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:33 pm

“They don’t like seeing black folk at my rallies.”

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:35 pm

Tapper finally brings up the protester who got sucker punched at Trump’s rally and that Hillary Clinton says it’s an issue and that candidates set the tone. Tapper asks “Have you set the tone?”
“I hope not,” Trump says.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:35 pm

Did Cruz just drop a “y’all” bomb in Florida?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:36 pm

“The dishonesty of the press??” That’s how you deflect the Nazi salute criticism?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:39 pm

Are we talking about law enforcement officers like the ones at the Trump rally who cuffed the black guy for assaulting that redneck’s fist with his face?

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:40 pm

Given opportunity to come out strong against violence at GOP rallies, Cruz blames Obama. 
Trump blames Today show.

Kasich advocates hugging.
Rubio gives the only good answer:  Leadership is about using the anger to motivate us, not to define us.  He’s making a head-snapping pivot to being inspirational.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:40 pm

Kasich using political fuzzy math.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:41 pm

I think they were talking about the Secret Service agent who choked and threw to ground the Time photog trying to document the roughing up of protesters.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:42 pm

I’m guessing Trump learned his math facts the way so many kids did:

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:44 pm

Ted Cruz names Donald Trump President of the Smithsonian. “If we nominate Donald Trump, Hillary wins.”

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:46 pm

Cruz is beggin’: “We’ve beaten Trump in states from Alaska to Maine, from Kansas to Texas” — the latter is a 20-ride car ride through the Oklahoma Panhandle

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:47 pm

Rubio says he’s still in this race to keep alive some old guy who comes out with his folding chair and Rubio sign every day. 

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:48 pm

Did I just hear a Tea Party name-check? Is that the first one this primary season?

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:50 pm

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:51 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:53 pm

Way to squeeze in “one last break,” CNN.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:54 pm

You know CNN planned the Lincoln-Douglas episode to air right after the network’s GOP debate. Well played indeed.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:54 pm

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:55 pm

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:57 pm

All those potential border wall construction workers just jotted down that lawyer’s number.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:58 pm

CLOSING STATEMENT TIME!!!
Kasich: Maybe you will be president too. Positive campaign. Fix problems.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20167:59 pm

Hit it, Lisa!

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20167:59 pm

Marco Rubio: My parents didn’t want me to go into politics.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20168:01 pm

Cruz: What an incredible nation we have that the son of a mailman, the son of a bartender, the son of a dishwasher  – and the son of a rich guy —  can all stand here on stage, running for POTUS. 

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20168:02 pm

Trump: I am bringing people by the millions to the GOP. Do you want them?

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20168:03 pm

Wow, did you just see Trump’s hand ENGULF Rubio’s?

Couldn’t resist.

Lisa de Moraes March 10, 20168:03 pm

That’s a wrap. Rubio did the best job tonight. And, Trump will take Florida.

Erik Pedersen March 10, 20168:04 pm

I agree with my colleague on  both counts. See everyone next time.