If you were expecting the Donald Trump Show to break out during last night's Republican presidential debate, you might have been disappointed when the mouth at the center of the stage fell silent when the talk turned to crazy things like, you know, policy and government. And could someone check and see if Ben Carson is awake yet?
1) Just one candidate was promoted from the junior varsity to the varsity prior to the second debate, and she made the most of her opportunity. In fact, Carly Fiorina was the clear winner of last night's debate. She was ready to address Mr. Trump when the inevitable question about his assessment of her appearance arose. She deftly corrected Chris Christie when the New Jersey governor criticized her for talking about her qualifications. And her forceful, emotional responses to questions about Planned Parenthood and marijuana legalization made her the standout.
2) Mr. Trump started strong, asking why Rand Paul was on the stage with the rest of the front-runners. But when the debate turned serious, Mr. Trump fell silent, so we still don't know much about what he would do as president once the Mexican wall is completed. The debate also could have been a big moment for Dr. Carson, who instead went too far to portray himself as above the fray; his sleepy performance could cost him his position, a solid second place to Mr. Trump, in the polls.
3) The JV team put on a nice debate as well, with Lindsay Graham beating Bobby Jindal by a nose. Mr. Graham's charm and humor earned him laughs and the most applause from the crowd at the Reagan Library. Following the course he set in the first debate, Mr. Jindal veered even further away from the GOP, sharply criticizing Congressional Republicans and – gasp! – actually giving credit to President Obama for fighting for his beliefs.
4) The debate was held in his presidential library, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Ronald Reagan's name was evoked over and over in the course of the evening. But just about all of the candidates forgot about the Gipper when it came time to talk about immigration. Thankfully, we had the ad above, from the National Immigration Forum Action Fund, to serve as a reminder.
5) CNN generally did a good job running its first debate of the campaign, with a couple of quibbles: Trump took up too much of the official time allotted, at least until he sat out the serious policy discussions. And even with 11 candidates on the stage, three hours is about an hour too long.