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First take/Debate

That was one long debate. I hadn’t bothered to check in advance how long Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate would run, figuring on the usual hour to 90 minutes. Instead it ran three hours, and close to a real three hours – there were relatively few commercial breaks. It was a little exhausting to watch, and the candidates – standing in place for three hours, always on call – must have been highly stressed. I’m guessing we won’t see another anytime soon that runs as long. And for all that, the subject matter was surprisingly limited; in hindsight, it mostly seemed to come down to Iran, abortion, Russia and personal attacks.

It was nicely set up, however, to allow for some free flow and a considerable amount of interaction, and – in spite of the fact that a lot of it had to do with personal attacks – that was a good move away from the traditional glorified press conference approach. The candidates seemed to be (based on the called-out candidate names) boxed in to short answers; considering the long debate time, they should have been given more time to answer. But the interaction overall was welcome.

Candidate impressions? Carly Fiorina had a couple of very strong video moments. Her brief rebuttal to Donald Trump’s “face” comment was the sharpest moment of the evening. Trump probably didn’t hurt himself with his base, though he probably didn’t make additional gains either, and overall he seemed a little diminished. If someone was looking for a candidate willing to substantively stand out from the crowd, Rand Paul gave them that, though whether that helped with the Republican electorate is unclear. Chris Christie seems to have undergone a careful media makeover, and had better delivery. Jeb Bush seemed not to have made needed progress, and lost his slap-match with Trump.

On to the next debate – oh, wait, that’s the Democrats. – rs

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