There were fireworks at the GOP debate last night, though fewer and more unusual than one might have expected.
The Fox debate, held in Detroit, Michigan, sported the smallest GOP debate field thus far, as well as the first on-air meeting between Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly since last year’s heated exchange, which culminated in Trump’s boycott of the Fox Iowa debate.
At this point in the presidential race, little should shock anyone who has been following the rhetoric over the past months. Trump showed an inclination toward gross inappropriateness and wholesale rejection of facts.
Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace astutely pressed the candidates on substantive topics and followed up pointed questions with graphics that questioned the logic of the candidates’ responses, with particular focus on Trump.
Moderator Chris Wallace used slides to show that Trump's answers for fixing the federal deficit wouldn't work in reality, as "the numbers don't add up." It is doubtful, however, that these realities will actually take a toll on Trump support.
Within the first 15 minutes, Trump felt the urge to assert the size of his nether regions with: “[Rubio] referred to my hands, if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee.”
Despite any punches the non-Trump candidates may have landed on the Republican front-runner, when asked if they would “support the Republican nominee, even if that nominee is Donald J. Trump” question. Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich all fell in line behind the presumptive nominee.
These admissions sounded pained, followed by: “If you’re our nominee, we will lose” -- “She will wipe you out,” and “Yelling and cursing at people doesn't make you a tough guy.”
Mostly skirting the Trump-Rubio-Cruz brawl, Ohio Gov. John Kasich asserted himself as the "only adult in the room." So far, that trait has failed to move the needle on his candidacy, though he came in second in New Hampshire and Vermont and is pinning his hopes on the Rust Belt states. The Ohio governor again touted his executive and legislative experience, which clearly outmatched any of the other candidates on stage.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tried his best to solidify the “alternative-to-Trump” position he assumed following a strong showing on Super Tuesday. Harping on a theme brought up by many, he noted: “Donald has a tenuous relationship with the truth.”
A question that resonates within the GOP: Can the anti-Trump movement say or do anything to mollify support for the front-runner? A safe guess is that they can’t, especially when his chief alternatives pledge their support to his eventual nomination.
Regarding the Twitter conversation around the debate, Trump was widely the most talked about candidate with 62% of the conversation, followed by Cruz at 16%, Rubio at 15% and Kasich with 7%.