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Nate Jackson / February 15, 2016

The South Carolina Cage Fight

At times, we weren’t sure it was a Republican debate.

Saturday night’s Republican debate in South Carolina featured some of the most vitriolic fratricidal infighting yet. Or as political analyst Charles Krauthammer wryly observed, “We went here from WWE to the UFC. This was a cage fight of the sort that I don’t think we have seen at the presidential level before.” Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio got rather ugly at times. Silver-spooners Jeb Bush and Donald Trump went after each other even more harshly. Of course, Trump went after everybody, from George W. Bush to the audience, and he was generally more angry and agitated than we’ve seen him. The end result was that John Kasich looked like the most reasonable man on stage, usually aiming his fire at Democrats. (If we hear Ben Carson offer the “thanks for including me in the debate” line one more time…)

At times, we weren’t sure it was a Republican debate. Despite his civil demeanor, Kasich argued for the virtues of ObamaCare/Medicaid expansion, while Trump commended the wonderful efforts of Planned Parenthood and sounded like a Democrat on Social Security. Worse, Trump practically made an in-kind contribution to MoveOn and other leftist groups with his 9/11-truther and Bush-lied-on-Iraq nonsense. Trump decidedly did not get Iraq right, and he slandered most Republican voters with his false line of attack. Fortunately, Rubio did get it right when he defended Bush for using the intelligence we had at the time, and when he faulted Bill Clinton for his failure to follow intelligence and take out Osama bin Laden. Too few Republicans are willing to make that case.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty sums it up: “If the Republican Party wants to nominate a man who thinks Bush could have prevented 9/11 but chose not to, who knew Iraq had no WMDs and lied the country into war anyway, who sneers and shouts and bellows and interrupts and accuses everyone else of lying… if a majority of South Carolina Republicans look at all that and give it the thumbs up … then yeah, maybe it isn’t my party anymore.”

This coming Saturday’s South Carolina primary could thin the field further. We certainly hope that’s the case, anyway, because it’s time to begin consolidating the not-Trump vote.

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