After last night

The Super Tuesday primaries are imminent. Which candidate do Republicans prefer to face Hillary Clinton in the November election? Whom do they want to represent them? That’s the question. Paul Mirengoff recaps and assesses last night’s CNN debate among the remaining GOP presidential candidates in Houston in “Trump battered, but is he bruised?” Herewith my impressions of the CNN event.

Given the needs of Senators Cruz and Rubio to take down Donald Trump, and moderator Wolf Blitzer’s inability to impose order, the debate turned into a free-for-all. Both Cruz and Rubio, but Rubio in particular, staged the kind of attacks to which Trump should have been treated heretofore. Better late than never, but is it too late? If so, the Democrats will have their fun with him.

Trump’s response to the attacks seemed to me mostly ineffectual (Paul notes an exception), but at this point the merits don’t seem to matter. On the merits, I scored the fight for Rubio and thought that Trump’s face was beaten to a bloody pulp. Yet Trump has the advantage in a three- or three-and-a-half- or four-way way race.

Trump retains his persona. His persona is one of strength. He is a tough guy. He will make America great again. He will make us winners again. We will win so much with Trump we will get tired of winning. I got a little tired of hearing him talk about the removing the “lines around the states” to replace Obamacare. Is that all there is?

Policy is not Trump’s thing. Toughness is, but he has a big heart. He’s not going to let people die in the streets because of a lack of medical care. Was anyone dying in the streets before Obamacare? If so, it was because they couldn’t make it to a hospital. Hospitals are generally prohibited by law from turning patients in need of emergency care away. Medicaid generally funds the medical care of indigent patients. Medicaid benefits vary among the states, but people are not dying in the streets.

In response to the tag team that Cruz and Rubio played against Trump, Trump responded with previously used attacks on Cruz as a liar and loner. He doesn’t play well with others.

Having avoided direct attacks on Trump in previous debates, Rubio has escaped Trump’s disparagement. I was interested to see what insults Trump would use on Rubio when Rubio went on the attack. Alluding to Rubio’s New Hampshire debate performance, Trump disparaged Rubio as a “choke artist.” It was a “meltdown.” And then there was this: “I thought he came out of a swimming pool.”

Trump’s zingers against Rubio lacked the inspiration or bite of “low-energy guy,” the zinger with which he had dispatched Jeb Bush. Rubio wasn’t choking last night. He wasn’t melting down. He didn’t even appear to be sweating.

Hugh Hewitt appeared briefly to ask questions along with the delegate from Telemundo. Trump has appeared several times on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. Hugh has previously asked Trump about the production of his tax returns; Trump has assured Hugh that he would produce his tax returns. He was working on it. Last night, however, Trump turned on Hugh for asking again about his tax returns. According to Trump, Hugh’s syndicated radio show is a low-rated affair. He doesn’t have listeners: “Very few people listen to your show; that’s the good news.”

The attack was predictable and uninspired. What is Trump doing on Hugh’s show if the show is a loser? Trump doesn’t have time for losers. I don’t even understand Trump’s assertion that he can’t release his returns because he is being audited. His returns have been prepared and filed. Why can’t they be released? Why can’t his previous returns be released? Something tells me that he may not be playing it entirely straight with us.

And yet Trump’s juggernaut of lose rolls on, or so it seems to me.