I watched most of the understudy Republican debate last night and was so tired of politics by the end that I skipped the main debate.
A four-person debate is in many ways much better than a 10-person debate. I had no favorite in this pre-debate debate, but I was surprised to see Chris Christie do so well. He was less combative and less annoying than in other debates, and he wisely focused on the likely Democratic nominee, repeatedly reminding the audience that Hillary Clinton is a lot less conservative than any GOP candidate.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was assertive to the point of being repulsive, repeatedly claiming that he alone had cut the size of government in the states. Gov. Christie and former Gov. Mike Huckabee disputed Jindal, claiming they had, too, cut the size of government in their states, but Jindal kept hammering away. Is cutting government the only measure of statesmanship?
Huckabee, who has a very smooth delivery, which you would expect from a former preacher and Fox News commentator, had his moments and won some points.
Rick Santorum, who has had lots of practice in being a presidential candidate, also made sense at times, but he still looked like a dark horse — a very dark one.
My guess that none of these "undercard" participants will break through to be a leading contender for the Republican nomination. That role belongs to Donald Trump or Ben Carson, or perhaps a mid-level candidate should the front-runners stumble.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton looks more inevitable than ever. Her name and her face fire up GOP voters, who will likely turn out if they can settle on a candidate that has some cross-party appeal. But the election is still a year away.