UPDATE 8:45 PM PDT:
Cruz: A. Elevated himself by destroying Trump, but then got smacked by Trump with 9/11, and took a hit on the VAT -- but recovered by crushing Rubio on immigration. Overall, an effective night showing he was willing to stand up to bullies, even ones he's embraced before. And he avoided any blowback from the Goldman Sachs story effectively.
Trump: B. Trump got crushed by Cruz, but then recovered with the 9/11 moment. His incoherence on China was problematic, and the crowd was obviously stacked against him. That hurt him.
Rubio: B. He came out aggressive and didn't let up. That said, he disappeared once Cruz and Trump got into it, and Christie's ankle-biting harmed him. He felt like a second-tier candidate for his exchanges with Christie while Cruz and Trump were the heavyweight battle. His late attack on Cruz was effective, but just that -- late.
Jeb: D. He did himself no favors tonight. He's playing Dad, but he feels more like Grandpa.
Carson: D. A non-entity.
Christie: C. Christie could have had a bigger night, but he was never able to have a breakout moment. Instead, it felt like more of the same. He didn't do what he needed to do to take down Rubio a peg.
Kasich: GO AWAY. JUST LEAVE.
UPDATE 8:30 PM PDT:
Startling revelation: Kasich's dad was a mailman.
Jeb says something or other. Nobody really knows.
Christie rips Obama's State of the Union. Good close.
Carson says we can solve our problems with "We the people." He sends people to his website, and says we will heal, inspire and revive America.
Rubio talks about how Obama wants to change America and undermine the Constitution and free enterprise. He says 2016 is a turning point.
Cruz cites "13 Hours" and how politicians abandon brave men. He speaks to the military and their parents, and says they have been betrayed. Slams Hillary for Black Lives Matter, says he will have the backs of the military and our cops and firefighters. Very powerful.
Trump cites the American sailors with guns to their heads. He says the only reason we got them back is the Iran deal -- then says we won't have any more stupid deals. That's actually Obama's talking point.
UPDATE 8:10 PM PDT:
Finally, a question to Rubio about amnesty. He says for 30 years, the issue has been about people already here illegally. He says now the issue is safety. He's going to play the security card.
One problem: it isn't credible. And when he says that ISIS has radically changed the debate about immigration, that's plain BS. Did he never hear of Al Qaeda? Or Hezbollah? Or Hamas?
Rubio calls Cruz a hypocrite for wanting green cards earlier, but not now, legalization earlier, but not now. He calls him a flip-flopper on crop insurance and ethanol. He says that isn't consistent conservatism. He sideswipes Cruz over Edward Snowden, too. Then Rubio says Cruz voted against a defense authorization bill -- as we mentioned last time, that's a silly accusation.
Cruz says that half of Rubio's accusations are false, and Rubio stood with Schumer. Undeniably true.
Jeb slaps at both Rubio and Cruz, and says they're backbenchers. Then he tries to pose as a border control expert. Laughable.
UPDATE 8:00 PM PDT:
Trump is asked whether his money will be put in a blind trust. He says he doesn't care about his companies if he becomes president. Fair enough.
Christie says that Obama favors criminals over cops. This is great stuff that Trump hit briefly earlier, but it's very late in the debate, and few people are listening at this point.Christie mentions the necessity for border security -- which reminds me, has anyone asked Rubio about amnesty? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
This debate should have ended five minutes ago. And now John Kasich is talking. MAKE IT STOP.
UPDATE 7:50 PM PDT:
Christie talks about corporate tax reform, and says we need to stop double taxation. That means more tax revenue and a better economy driving it. And we'd use that on infrastructure. He says Obama has penalized corporations and hurt hard-working taxpayers. But both he and Rubio have become afterthoughts in this debate.
Carson is asked about his tax plan. He gives his usual answer, which is his stump speech.
Trump talks about corporate inversion -- everybody is leaving to avoid our taxes. He keeps saying the phrase "corporate inversion." That does not make it go away, however.
Rubio talks about his tax plan -- and BLASTS Cruz over his supposed value added tax, which means businesses pay taxes twice, on their income and their wages to consumers. He calls it a way to blindfold the people, and he says that in the future, leftists will raise the taxes. If true, this harms Cruz.
Cruz says that his plan isn't a VAT. He says it's a different type of tax designed to destroy other types of taxes. He says everyone in America will pay a 10% flat tax. He says you'll be able to fill out your taxes on a postcard. He says Rubio wants to keep the IRS in place. Cruz cites Art Laffer's support.
The Tax Foundation backs Rubio here. So does National Review. Rubio strikes back and smacks Cruz, says even Cruz would keep the IRS in place.
Christie intervenes to complain that we're not on the issues. Of course. But then he drops a bomb on Rubio: "You had your chance, Marco, you blew it." He's obnoxious, but the testosterone issue has been a problem for Rubio in this race.
UPDATE 7:40 PM PDT:
Cruz says China's protectionist, but Jeb's right that reciprocal tariffs hurt the United States. He says you have to pass a tax plan that will make our business stronger. This is essentially correct -- we outcompete them while consuming cheap products. Cruz says he'll fight for the working man.
Here's the reality: there's an ideological case for undercutting Chinese communism through a trade war, but raising our tariffs on their goods would indeed hurt our economy, both going and coming. We are consumers and producers. More expensive products are more expensive. Less consumers abroad is less consumers.
UPDATE 7:30 PM PDT:
Trump says he stands by his ban on Muslim immigration. He says we have too many problems in the world to cave on this. "Indonesia, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb." Lincolnesque.
Jeb rebukes him, and says this sends a nasty signal. Jeb doubles down on calling Trump "unhinged," and Cavuto points out that his poll numbers went up. Are all those people unhinged? Jeb says he can see why people are angry and scared, but they're not unhinged -- just Trump.
Trump says we have a tremendous security problem, and so does the rest of the world. He says he wants to find out why nobody was vigilant about the San Bernardino terrorists. Why didn't they call? By the way, the police are mistreated. Word stew, but everything's yummy.
Kasich disowns Trump's moratorium on Muslim immigration. Then he says stuff, but I fell asleep.
Christie says you have to ban the bad guys, not all Muslims. You have to fund our intelligence services.
Rubio says people are talking catastrophically because ISIS has been underestimated by Obama. Which is true. Glad people are starting to get this.
Cruz says Obama has been an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism. Correct.
Jeb attacks Trump -- he thinks whomever attacks Trump most often wins. He has been misinformed.
Trump gives a wildly incoherent answer on China in which he lies about wanting tariffs, then says he will consider them. Pick a policy, don't just tell me about all your friends in finance. None of them are running for president.
John Kasich says something. His father was a mailman, I hear.
Jeb attacks Trump on his China policy; Trump calls him weak. As always. And Jeb backs down. As always. Trump says China is smart, but he's wrong on the facts.
UPDATE 7:20 PM PDT:
Bartiromo name-checks Lindsey Graham, who receives his biggest hand EVER. She asks if he'd put 20,000 troops on the ground. Carson talks about the threat of ISIS, then says he'd ask the military. That's a fine answer. He says we should bomb their centers, and tell civilians to get out; if they die, that's their fault. If Carson always talked this way, he might still be in this race.
Bartiromo cites Graham again, asks Christie if Assad has to go in Syria. Christie turns the question on Obama and Hillary. Then he says we need a no-fly zone, solve the refugee problem, and get rid of Assad. He says there will be no peace in Syria with Assad in charge.
UPDATE 7:10 PM PDT:
Cruz says everybody knows what New York values are. Bartiromo says she's from NY and doesn't get it. Cruz quips that's why she doesn't. Cruz says NY values are liberal on social issues, and focus on the value of media and money. Cruz then SLAMS Trump for saying "New York values" aren't Iowa values. Cruz says not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan.
FACT CHECK: Correct.
Trump says William F. Buckley came from Manhattan. Then he talks about how great New York is, and cites 9/11. Pure demagoguery. But it's very effective -- Trump playing victim over 9/11 works.
Here's the truth: the GOP hasn't won New York since 1984. Of course New York values aren't traditionally conservative.
Jeb talks about military spending and is just fine.
Then John Kasich says some stuff. Oh happy day.
UPDATE 7:00 PM PDT:
Bush is asked about gun control. He gives a nice answer about the victims of the Charleston shooting. Then he says that the FBI made a mistake; the law already requires a background check. He says we don't need new rules, we need to make sure the FBI does its job. He says the first impulse is always to curb Second Amendment rights.
Trump says no more gun restrictions. You need good people with guns to fight bad people with guns. He then turns to the mental health issue. Like Bush's answer, this one works.
Cavuto asks Rubio about why gun sales have skyrocketed. He says people are afraid of Obama. He says the Second Amendment isn't an option. It's a right, not an option. He says if Obama could confiscate guns, he would. If he could kill the Second Amendment, he would. Great answer from Rubio. Cavuto reiterates his question. Rubio doesn't know enough to cite Obama's repeated citation of Australian gun confiscation.
Cavuto asks Christie about his gun control. Christie says Obama wants to skip Congress -- but that elides the question. That's means, not substance.
But he calls Obama a petulant child and gets a laugh.
Cruz says you have to target the bad guys to stop crime. Cruz says Obama targeted guns by appointing Eric Holder and Sonia Sotomayor. He cites Fast and Furious. And he says Hillary says there's no right for an individual to bear arms. This is precisely correct. Cruz is actually more fluid than Rubio. Far more fluid.
Cruz says that you have to a have a pro-gun record to be trusted, cites Gun Owners of America support and NRA award.
UPDATE 6:50 PM PDT:
Jeb Bush is now playing Dad. As I said he would. That was the plan. It isn't working, because he's still Jeb!
Carson jokes that he was mentioned -- Jeb said "everybody" would be better than Hillary. Carson says we have to stop tearing each other apart. Yes, we know. Now go back to sleep, Dr. Carson.
This game has to stop: two candidates make substantive attacks, and a third candidate then jumps in to do the Christie patented "LET'S TALK ABOUT THE REAL ISSUES" routine. Yes, we'll unify. But this is a primary debate.
Bartiromo asks Kasich about Bernie Sanders being the nominee. OH GOD NO NOT JOHN KASICH. Kasich excitedly says if he is, we'll win all 50 states. Then he says stuff.
Bartiromo asks Carson about whether Hillary's an enabler of sexual misconduct. He says we should be able to look at any past president in terms of past behavior. Carson then redirects to whether this is America anymore: do we have standards, values, or principles? More togetherness, yadda yadda yadda. The kumbaya campaign is not a good answer here.
The real answer here should have been: hell yes, she's an enabler, and a liar, and her husband is a sexual abuser. End of story.
UPDATE 6:40 PM PDT:
Fox Business comes back and asks Cruz about his eligibility. He says Trump's lawyers said he's eligible, and Donald said so. He says nothing's changed since September except polls. He jokes that Trump's mom was born in Scotland. He says he won't use that against Trump. Trump says it wouldn't work. Crushing answer from Cruz. Brutal.
Trump cites another set of polls and the audience boos. Then he says that some Constitutional scholars have questions -- he doesn't care, but they'll be sued. Trump's going full birther, and nobody enjoys it. He even admits it only started to matter when Cruz gained in the polls -- exactly what Cruz said.
Cruz says he's argued before SCOTUS and doesn't need advice from Lawrence Tribe. Cruz says the chances of litigation proceeding are zero. Cruz then critiques Tribe as a left-wing judicial activist and Hillary supporter. Then Cruz said he'd pick Trump as VP, and if he's invalidated, Trump can be president. LOL.
Now Rubio pulls a Christie and tries to pretend he's above the fray. It's boring. Nobody wants to listen to grandma tell them to take out the garbage.
Bartiromo asks Trump about Nikki Haley. He says they're friends. Trump then says he's angry because our country is run horribly, and he says he'll accept the mantle of anger. Smart.
Cavuto asks Rubio about whether one of his super PACs should have run brutal ads against Christie. Rubio turns again to Obama. Cavuto tries to get him to answer the question -- and Rubio demurs. Then he says we can't afford a president who supports common core and gun control. This is the battle for the establishment mantle -- Cruz and Trump aren't going anywhere. Rubio: "Unfortunately, Governor Christie has endorsed many of the ideas Obama has endorsed." He's exactly correct.
Then Christie tries to make a joke about gaining on Rubio. It goes over like a lead balloon.
UPDATE 6:30 PM PDT:
Cavuto asks Trump about his Syrian policy. He says this isn't about fear. It's reality. Bombings all over. Look at Paris. He says immigration could be a great Trojan Horse. He says, "Where are the women? There are very few women, very few children?" Good questions, mixed up in a word stew.
Bartiromo asks Cruz about the campaign funding from a Goldman Sachs loan. Here's my explanation of that from earlier. It's a good explanation of the issue, but it's complicated. Fox Business saves him by going to commercial.
UPDATE 6:20 PM PDT:
Jeb is asked about foreign policy, and then looks super awkward and uncomfortable -- which is the usual. He eventually warms to the answer and says America's leadership is required for peace and stability. He's stumbling and bumbling, even when he says the right stuff. This debate is Jeb's opening, and he's fumbling it with sweaty hands. Jeb lists all the things Hillary likes, and mentions Iran, Benghazi...and Dodd-Frank. What the heck? Jeb says that Hillary might end up going between the White House and courthouse. Weak tea. Weak, weak, weak.
Cavuto asks Rubio to define the threat. Rubio says Hillary is disqualified from being commander-in-chief. He says if she can't handle intelligence correctly can't be president -- and someone who lies to Benghazi families can't be either. Rubio says Obama thinks America is an arrogant global power. He says that's how you end up with this awful foreign policy. He's got his game face on, too, and he's ready to play.
Bartiromo asks Carson how we're going to attack ISIS. Carson babbles nonsensically about the nature of terrorism. After Rubio, the contrast is glaring.
Ben Carson following up on Rubio's national security answer be like pic.twitter.com/JO8RsorbYl— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 15, 2016
UPDATE 6:10 PM PDT:
Maria Bartiromo opened by talking about jobs, then asked Cruz about Obama's take on the economy. But Cruz began by talking about the picture of American sailors captured by Iran. He said Obama didn't mention it, and would be sending $100 billion to the ayatollahs. Cruz said the good news is that the next president would be standing on the stage, and that if he was the next president, no serviceman would be on his knees.
Cruz then moved onto the substance -- he said millionaires and billionaires are doing well, and Wall Street is doing well. He talked about the problems of the middle class.
Cavuto then turned to Kasich and asked him about the budget. Kasich talked about freezing federal regulations, then said taxes were too high. Then he said something else, but I stopped listening.
Bartiromo asked Christie about whether the world was on fire, and what his rule was for using military action. Christie says he heard "storytime with Barack Obama," then said we have to talk to our allies and our adversaries, and make sure they understand the limits of our patience. Christie says if he's the nominee, Hillary won't get within 10 miles of the White House. Christie says military action should be used when absolutely necessary to protect lives and interests. He says he'll rebuild the military.
UPDATE 6:00 PM PDT:
We're about to kick off. Here are the debate lookalikes:
It's time for Republican debate lookalikes! Let's begin with Donald Trump. pic.twitter.com/O5AJFz3FnW— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 15, 2016
Next, it's Chris Christie! pic.twitter.com/EAO8xjymo4— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 15, 2016
We've got some Jeb Bush lookalike action! pic.twitter.com/n7WTZnZ6MO— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 15, 2016
How about Marco Rubio? You betcha! pic.twitter.com/MJyHd7hvoR— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 15, 2016
We could never forget John Kasich. pic.twitter.com/OhwmKveU7Q— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 15, 2016
And, naturally, there's Ben Carson. pic.twitter.com/AQOXgulE6l— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 15, 2016
And last, but not least, Ted Cruz. pic.twitter.com/yHhgLirYIT— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 15, 2016
Here we go. Stick with us all night long for constant updates, jokes, frustration, and occasional vomiting upon gazing upon the visage of John Kasich.
Tonight, we will answer a few crucial questions:
(1) Was John Kasich's father a mailman?
(2) What did Chris Christie do during 9/11?
(3) Did Marco Rubio's father work at some sort of bar?
(4) Why is Jeb Bush?
And many, many more.
Stick around. There are sure to be fireworks. You can read my preview here.