Kate Riga and I just recorded a quick debate recap insta-pod which should be showing up in your feed a bit later in the evening if you’re a Josh Marshall Podcast subscriber. If not, we’ll post it here on the site too. Our first impressions were pretty similar: surprisingly strong showing by Mike Pence. We debated today on the regular episode whether Hutchinson or Christie would be the one who brought the fight to Trump. Pence was also possible but he simply didn’t seem to have it in him. But as it turned out, it was Pence who took up that challenge and he managed to wrestle applause from the audience for doing it. There’s a strong element of “not that it matters.” But in the context of this debate, it was Pence.
DeSantis had what I’d call a marginally positive showing for his campaign. The worst thing for DeSantis is that no one was attacking him because basically no one cares. But DeSantis did manage to remain apart from the big fights of the evening and to rattle off, mostly uninterrupted, his basic stock lines without a wild amount of weirdness. Again, this only makes sense in the context of radically diminished expectations. But in that context, marginally positive.
Then there’s Vivek Ramaswamy who in many ways was the dominating force through the debate but also came off as what I can only call a cocky little shit. He was dominating in the vein of the know-it-all who talks constantly in class and everyone ends up hating. My own response was visceral and I got the sense that the other candidates up there dislike him in a deeply personal way. I think most Republicans will react similarly. But there’s a smallish but not insubstantial slice of the GOP electorate that likes that trollish, debate me! vibe and they’ll like him a lot. Given that 60% of the vote is already locked up and that this whole debate was about the remaining 40%, even that smallish slice can be significant.
Check out our insta-pod reaction when it drops a bit later this evening.