I just took my first look around at post-debate commentary, and there seems to be a consensus that Ted Cruz was the night’s big winner.
Ted Cruz? I barely even noticed him most of the night. How did he end up getting so much pundit love? The answer, it turns out, lies in one (1) exchange early in the debate. Here’s what Cruz said after getting a question about his opposition to John Boehner’s budget deal:
You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions — “Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?” “Ben Carson, can you do math?” “John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?” “Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?” “Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?” How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?
That’s it. It got huge applause, of course. Attacks on debate moderators, and the media more generally, always do at Republican debates. I even thought about doing a post rounding up all the shots the candidates took at the media tonight, but then thought better of it.
Anyway, I took Cruz’s attack on the moderators as basically a cheap—and frankly kind of stale—applause line, and thought nothing more about it. But I guess it was actually one of the highlights of the debate. This does not speak well for the overall quality of tonight’s proceedings.