1. It’s Wednesday, December 16, 2015.

2. Watched the Republican debate last night. Two-plus hours of gloom, doom, name-calling, snarling, voice-raising, eye rolling (that would be Trump), disrespecting the moderator and the other candidates by talking well beyond the time limit (that would be Cruz), and other assorted displays of distemper.

Here are some quick takes from last night:

— If I had to pick a winner from among the losers, I would say it was Marco Rubio. He was under attack more than anyone not named Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but he maintained his poise and stayed pretty much on point. On a stage full of negativity, he occasionally fired up the inspirational stuff that gets voters excited. As a Democrat, I would fear him as the Republican candidate more than any of these others, because I think he could actually win.

— John Kasich also tried to be positive. But there’s something disconnected about his message. It’s really unclear what he’s for except, perhaps, being nicer to people who disagree with him.

— Chris Christie’s big problem with Republicans is that he’s still seen as having consorted with the enemy when he toured the Sandy-ravaged parts of his state with the reviled Barack Obama. Hence the fact that Christie was the most venomous about the President, practically spitting out his name every time he said it. There are some indications that Christie could be the moderate who emerges from the first votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. We’ll see.

— Jeb Bush never convinces me, or anyone else apparently, that he wants to be President. Maybe it’s projection, but I think he’s running to make his father happy. He’s trying to uphold the family name. That’s why Trump bothers him so much.

— I did not see the debate that Carly Florina supposedly won a few months ago. She didn’t win anything last night. She snarled the whole night and offered little more than the idea that she ran a company and this isn’t much different.

— It’s hard to decide who I would never want to have dinner with – it’s a tossup between Ted Cruz and Trump. These are two guys so full of themselves that it’s amazing anyone else was able to fit into that auditorium in Las Vegas. The way Cruz was determined to talk past Wolf Blitzer’s exhortation to stop – I don’t even remember the point anymore – was scary and depressing. If he’s not listening to Wolf, he’s not listening to anyone else either.

— Trump. His facial expressions and churlish rejoinders alone are what keep people watching these debates. You never know when he’s going to insult the hell out of Bush or Lindsay Graham or whoever else ticks him off. That must be what people with no sense of propriety love about him. What you can hate about him, of course, is his complete disrespect for people who aren’t male and Caucasian. He doubled down on the anti-Muslim rhetoric and reminded us that he’s not crazy about Latin Americans either.

3. It’s the nature of the initial part of the nominating process for candidates to talk to the party’s base. Last night’s debate certainly wasn’t for my benefit – I’m a lost-cause Democrat to them.

But it also wasn’t for the benefit of anyone who’s genuinely undecided as 2016 rolls around. It was an appeal to the party faithful, the Republicans who will actually schlep to caucus sites in Iowa just 47 days from now or polls in New Hampshire a few days later.

That’s the opening for Hillary Clinton. She’s got the Democratic nomination. Sanders and O’Malley can help her shape her message to the general electorate.

If she can do that – start to appeal to those who aren’t sure about their vote while the Republicans are deep-diving in the muck for their base – it will give her a big head start when the time comes to face the GOP survivor next fall.


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