Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz stood out in the Republican debate last night on CNBC, particularly Rubio with his putdown of Jeb Bush when Bush challenged him on his absenteeism from Senate votes and noted a Florida paper’s call for his resignation from the Senate. 

I’m not saying I liked either of these candidates. But they made a few substantive points and parried well. Rubio, and later others, fired up the partisan crowd by attacking the media, a favorite GOP whipping boy now and always.

Donald Trump seems done (as well as Jeb Bush?). Trump is less a source of fascination to moderators now because he has only a tiresome repetitive shtick — bluster and insults, but no specific ideas. Facts are even less relevant to Trump than the rest of a fact-challenged field (he denied something that appears on his own website). Surely even Republican voters who like Trump’s bluster and share his offense at slights to U.S.A. the Great want more from a president. Surely.

That is about all I got from the ragged event (moderation was ineffective).

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None will concede publicly that the Democratic Party or its candidates have a single redeeming characteristic, though Mike Huckabee played a Democrat last night with repeat pitches to save Medicare and Social Security from elderly-hating Republican candidates who want to kill the programs. Really. The former Arkansas governor seems increasingly irrelevant.

Dan Balz at Washington Post saw it also as a good night for Rubio and Cruz. But, he notes, it’s unclear yet whether voters will respond. Ben Carson, for example, rising in the polls lately, wasn’t a big factor last night, but his low-key style might resonate with voters more than the insults and interruptions that some employed.