I dunno. Maybe if Cruz and Rubio had come out swinging that wildly at Trump last July, it would have made a difference. At this stage, the focus on Trump University, Trump tax returns, Trump foreign workers, etc, might merely reinforce the logic of those Nevada returns - that it's all about Trump. And, if it's about settling on one of the four surviving opponents as the anti-Trump, last night probably benefited Rubio at Cruz's expense. Which, given that some Cruz support would go to Trump, would paradoxically make Trump stronger. On the other hand, if the debate helps Rubio reclaim Florida from Trump, that would certainly make the delegate count a real race.
But that's if you followed every detail of the debate. Sometimes meta-impressions matter more than sound-bite rapier thrusts. And in that respect the takeaway from last night may have been the debate panelist Maria Celeste ArrarĂ¡s, who was permitted by CNN to hog more airtime than our old pal Hugh Hewitt has been granted by the network these last six months. Ms ArrarĂ¡s is a host on Telemundo and, unlike Hugh, had a single area of interest - the need for all Republican candidates to engage in Hispanic outreach by kissing up to them on illegal immigration - which she distilled into one condescending line:
Do you get it?
Well, it depends what you mean by getting it:
While much has been said about Mitt Romney getting a mere 27% of the Hispanic vote in 2012, Nate Silver's "Swing the Vote" web site shows that even if he had gotten 67% he would still have lost the Electoral College vote and the election. However, with an increase of just a few percentage points in the college and non-college educated white vote, Romney would have won the presidency despite getting only 27% of the Hispanic vote.
If you're looking for that magic anti-Trump candidate the GOP can unify around, maybe Maria Celeste ArrarĂ¡s is the way to go, with her ingenious focus on critical issues like the need for a wall on the Canadian border. But, if you don't see things that way, her prominence last night underlined a central grievance of the Republican base - that, in 21st-century America, small fashionable identity groups entirely irrelevant to the GOP matter, and millions upon millions of unfashionable bluecollar whites don't.
The correct response to Maria Celeste ArrarĂ¡s' questions is:
But enough about you. What about the election?
~My friends at the IPA have posted a few moments from my speech to their gala beano in Melbourne a week ago. I'm not sure it quite works without all the build-up, but enjoy:
Melbourne was a great night: I sat next to two charming ladies - Jess Wilson, president of Victoria's Young Liberals ("liberal" in the Aussie, classical sense, I hasten to add, rather than the depraved contemporary illiberal American Democrat sense) and Primrose, Lady Potter, great patron of the Australian Ballet and widow of one of the founders of the IPA. But there were many stout-hearted chaps present, too, including Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt. We'll post more speech footage as it comes along.
~On Wednesday I lunched with former Prime Minister John Howard, one of America's staunchest friends in the aftermath of 9/11. As he said on the following day, "This is no time to be an 80 per cent ally" - and in the years ahead he certainly wasn't. Tim Blair has a cute moment from that lunch.