1) Do We Have The Final Four?
Last night’s GOP debate was possibly the most consequential GOP debate so far. We think, as it stands now, that four nominees have a pathway to victory — Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Gov. Chris Christie.
2) Cruz and Trump Won The Night
Overall we give Cruz the win for last night, but only by a hair. His successful response to the birther controversy “trumped up” by Trump was a major victory for his campaign — and a sign that Trump could be countered.
However, Trump fought back during the “New York values” exchange, using 9/11 as an unimpeachable example that the Big Apple isn’t rotten. Trump performed well and has a solid, unshakeable support base. He’ll continue to stay in the top tier.
3) Rubio and Christie Are Still Alive
Rubio weathered attacks from both Christie and Cruz, and fought back well enough to negate or counter-balance some of the attacks made against him. Christie continued to cement himself as the Establishment’s alternative, and if Rubio doesn’t make third in Iowa or second in New Hampshire he’s well positioned to take those votes going forward.
4) Bush, Kasich and Carson Look Finished
A lot can happen in the next couple of weeks, and no doubt any of these three could play the spoiler – Carson taking votes from Cruz in Iowa, and Kasich and Bush taking away votes from Rubio or Christie. There’s no reason for them to drop out until after Iowa and/or New Hampshire, but many have the resources to stay in the game through Super Tuesday if they wanted to.
5) Attacks Will Get Uglier Leading Into The Primaries
Iowa is just 17 days away, and the race there seems to be a neck-and-neck contest between Cruz and Trump. The two will, presumably, continue to escalate their offensives against the other. New Hampshire promises to be a different beast, and the Establishment candidates — Christie, Rubio, Kasich and Bush — will compete for the same votes. We expect the most grenades to be lobbed at Rubio by the other three candidates, all of whom stand to benefit if Rubio’s campaign falters.
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