I did not watch the second Republican debate. I could not watch it because it is on Fox News and its related cable and streaming channels and I do not subscribe to cable. But even if I had access, I would likely not have watched because all indications were that it would have hardly anything of substance.
And so it proved. In reading about the debate afterwards, it looks like it was a shambles.
It took about a half hour for the Republican Presidential debate on Wednesday night to descend from merely being very boring to unrecoverable chaos.
This was the “thank you for speaking while I’m interrupting” debate, the event at which the confusion and aimlessness of the Republicans challenging Trump for the Presidential nomination became apparent to all. Trump, far ahead in every poll, had opted out of the event, held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, California, a venue whose leadership he has sometimes sparred with. In his absence, the debate was billed as a chance for the other Republicans on the ballot to change their fortunes: for Haley to establish herself as the mainstream alternative to Donald Trump, for Scott to make clear what he is campaigning for, and for DeSantis to find a way to reverse his slide in the polls, which has now lasted several months and still defines the campaign.
On that count, DeSantis failed from the beginning, when it took a full fifteen minutes for the moderators to call on him. When he did get a chance to speak, generally looking a little glum, he tended to rattle off some suspiciously rehearsed-sounding lines. Of his plans to expand domestic oil drilling, DeSantis said, “We’re going to choose Midland over Moscow. We’re going to choose the Marcellus over the Mullahs. We’re going to choose the Bakken over Beijing.” Stop this man before he alliterates again.