After finishing second in Iowa, chastened Donald Trump has returned to the flock for tonight’s debate, conceding that his boycott in principle against mean-girl Megyn Kelly and her Fox News boss might not have served him well in that states caucuses.
Tonight’s debate should be a yeasty brawl. Trump will accuse Ted Cruz of voter fraud, Jeb Bush of having a Mommy fixation and Marco Rubio of having one canned speech in his repertoire. Meanwhile, Rubio has picked up the endorsement of former candidate Rick Santorum, who then failed to recall any Rubio accomplishment in an interview.
Extra points if Trump works into the conversation that New Hampshire Dem front-runner Bernie Sanders is following the billionaire’s lead later tonight when he appears on Saturday Night Live with his doppelganger, Larry David.
Meanwhile, Carly Fiorina will stay at home and tweet bitterly about “media bosses in New York” — ABC is hosting tonight at St. Anselm College in NH — who are “stealing” the New Hampshire primary by denying her a podium onstage, thereby “rigging the game.” Ben Carson, Chris Christie and John Kasich made the cut, however. And like Santorum, Rand Paul suspended his campaign after being an also-ran in Iowa.
ABC News anchor-in-chief and Sunday Beltway show wonk George Stephanopoulos will not moderate, having recused himself in May when it came to light he’d donated about $75K to the Clinton Foundation a couple years back. Instead, This Week co-anchor Martha Raddatz is moderating with World News Tonight anchor David Muir in the Battle of the Hoodies:
— David Muir (@DavidMuir) February 6, 2016
Follow along as we call the action.
Favorite hyperbolic line of ABC’s voice-over intro: “On the eve of the biggest football game of the year, the biggest debate of the season.”
ABC modestly refers to it as epic debate. Before it begins
We’ve confirmed that there is no truth to the rumor that Peyton Manning and Cam Newton turned down ABC’s offer to join the debate.
According to ABC’s Swiss-timed countdown clock, we are T-minus 8 minutes to liftoff.
Far more advertising than analysis in ABC’s pregame show — wonder how much those spots were going for?
Lindsey Graham and John McCain should not attempt comedy
Lots of subplots tonight:
Can John Kasich kick things up a notch and move firmly into the top tier?
Ben Carson missed his introduction?
Can Ted Cruz build on his Iowa momentum?
Trump missed his cue, eh? Not very presidential.
Uh, paging John Kasich?
Backstage drama at the debates! Ben and Donald Trump hold back to make sure they make Loretta Young entrances. Debate moderators say it’s the whole field when Kasich has not been introduced. “What about Kasich” says Rubio. “Oh yeah,” says Muir.
Certainly the least organized introductions of the debate season. Not an auspicious start.
First question to Trump involves nuking Denmark. Guess it can’t be the happiest country on Earth if it’s not ON Earth anymore.
How many ABC News logos can they jam on screen
The Donald is the only one who refers to himself in the first person. Gotta believe that’s enough for some undecideds to join him.
It wouldn’t be a GOP debate if Ben Carson didn’t whine about some slight by the moderators. Yawn.
Cruz’s Iowa rannygazoo: “Today is 105th birthday of Ronald Reagan. I will not speak ill of another Republican,” says Ben Carson.
Cruz: “Ben. I’m sorry.” Then blames CNN again.
Brooke Baldwin took such umbrage on-air about Cruz “throwing CNN under the bus” this week. Wonder how she’ll react to this.
Ben Carson nails Cruz and exonerates CNN saying they corrected tweet within a minute.
Biden bashing is sooo 2008.
Chris Christie goes in for the kill on Rubio: “You weren’t even there to vote for it. That’s not leadership — that’s truancy.”
Christie’s latest slap at the Boy in the Bubble?
Sorry, couldn’t resist:
Christie relentless in Rubio bashing. And me without a bucket of popcorn.
Christie hammering Rubio: “That’ what Washington DC does. Drive by shot at beginning” followed by “memorized 25 second speech.” It doesn’t solve one problem for one person.”Then Rubio does it — again! Christie has spoiled Marco Rubio’s speechifying pattern. He’s toast.
Cue Carson complaint about being left out in 3 … 2 … 1 …
Muir and Raddatz have this deer caught in headlines look….
Was kinda expecting Barbara Bush to be at Jeb’s side tonight.
The also-rans continue throwing haymakers at Rubio. Does he have a canned speech for that?
Jeb Bush ties Rubio to Obama, saying we already elected “soaring eloquence” and look where that got us.
Raddatz disgusted Cruz won’t declare war on North Korea
Kasich is allowed to go way past the Ding.
Kasich eggs on Japanese to go after North Korean missiles. At least Kasich is the first governor on stage who has not cited storm cleanup as the qualification to be president.
Trump might as well say, “I’m going build a wall around North Korea and get China to pay for it.”
Wow — did Trump just argue for diplomacy?
This likely is the first time this election cycle that we’ve heard Marco Rubio say, “Donald Trump is exactly right.”
Christie knows exactly when to look straight into the camera.
Christie likens North Koreans to Jersey mob.
Christie pulls out his little hatchet again and whacks Rubio again. Christie is the Nailer in Chief tonight….
ABC deploys the B-Team.
Not fuzzy math: Free enterprise + health care = $400 tongue depressors.
We don’t know exactly what is Trump’s new health care plan but he made very clear, “We’re going to take care of people that are not dying on the street.”
Is that ration-al, Ted?
Could someone call on the Good Doctor for the health care question, please?
Ah, ask a silly question…
Dr. Ben Carson asked about health care; complains he did not get asked about North Korea
How much is brain surgery under you Health Empowerment Account, Doctor? Better not take your kid to urgent care when she has strep throat so you can save up just in case.
Only real estate mogul could make passionate defense for eminent domain….
Jeb fires back that Trump tried to use eminent domain to take an old lady’s home for a limo parking lot in Atlantic City. Trump tells Jeb to shsssh while he’s talking. Trump gets booed. Loud.
“That’s all of his donors and special interest groups,” Trump says, now speaking directly to the viewing audience, explains the hall at debates are packed with donors and special interest execs. “The reason they’re not loving me is I don’t want their money,” Trump says to explain the loud booing. “I’m going to do the right thing for the American public!”
This is the best dysfunctional family’s Thanksgiving dinner – ever.
George Stephanopoulos Interstitial: Never seen Rubio more rattled than when Christie exposed his rhetorical tricks.
How much of that Twitter conversation about Rubio is positive?
Hey Donald, how will you “bring jobs back from Mexico” when there’s a 40-foot wall between us?
Kasich talking billions — Trump suddenly more interested.
The crowd responds to Jeb saying “we need more millionaires.” OK.
Exactly how would the New Jersey canary in the coalmine die? By garrote?
Jihadist University hasn’t won an away game all year. #NoNCCATourneyBid
ISIS’ “sophisticated network of radicalizing people here in the homeland and around the world”:
Leave it to Trump to invoke Patton and MacArthur
Doesn’t Trump do that every debate?
“None of us up here is a military expert. We act like we are. ” Ben Carson speaks truth to wanna-be power.
If torture is wrong, why do we have three GOP debates in the next 20 days?
Ted Cruz knows the definition of torture. Asked if he would bring back waterboarding: “I would not bring it back in any widespread use” — why was that a laughline on the audience? Is the hall packed with Waterboarding Industry Trade Association?
Trump said “medieval times are coming back. ” Hey! Leave the dinner theater out of this!
Waterboarding — cool! That’s when you skim along the wet sand at the beach, right? Sign me up!
I guarantee Jihadist University offers Waterboarding Practice 101. Probably upper division course, too.
That’s two mentions of the Second Amendment, if you’re scoring along at home.
Trump’s next book: “Iran’s Nukes: The Art of the Bad Deal”
John, are you not hearing the bell?
Jeb: first GOP candidate who can count past second amendment, skips ahead to No. 10.
Who had 6:57 PM in the “Benghazi” pool?
Seeing that Jack Hanna ad makes me miss David Letterman.
Ted Cruz vowed earlier to destroy Jihadist University. “Jihadist University” is now trending. Best line in that Twitter conversation so far: “Not gonna lie, I would be willing to attend Jihadist University if it means no debt after graduation.”
George Stephanopoulos Interstitial: “It’s Revenge of the Governors” night! says Jonathan Karl.
How long is this thing going tonight? We’re nearing the tw0-hour mark, and David Muir promised lots more in the pre-commercial tease.
Zika virus? Run for your lives!
Americans canceling their dream Olympic trips?
Never enough talk about bodily fluids at these things.
Applause tonight pretty much defined by one word: “smattering.”
Hey guys, exactly how are we gonna PAY for all this military buildup?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Jeb Bush on veteran who VA administrators declared dead when he is not. “I met him. He’s voting for me and he’s likely to be alive.” Bush: grateful for live voter.
College credit for military service? Let’s call it the Ex-G.I. Bill.
First trip to marriage equality issue this GOP debate season, I believe
“Democrats are the extremists on the issue of abortion,” Rubio charges.
Rubio blasts Dem debate moderators for not yet asking candidates questions about abortion.
Call the Superbowl question? Really?
Kasich: Stories. Hugs. Tears. Positive message. I will come back to New Hampshire if you vote for me
Bush: Ronald Reagan birthday. Peace through strength. Make America safer, stronger, freer. Hi Mom.
Christie: “You’ve gotten to know my heart.”
Rubio: Kids with me on campaign trail. Absentee father. My age. Vote for me and unite this party. Beat Hillary Clinton. Single greatest nation in history of mankind.
Trump tells Cruz of his gag about being leader in Iowa: “That’s because you got Ben Carson’s votes by the way.” Our country doesn’t win any more. China killing us on trade. If I’m elected we will win and we will win and we will win.
Carson inspirational closing-statement line: “Guess what, I’m still here.”
Cruz: Anyone remember that I won Iowa the other day?
That’s it for us tonight. Thanks for playing along.