Seriously. I have been harping on this for more than a decade now. Our election cycles have become non-stop circuses in which these tent shows blur into one another until people can't make heads or tails of anything. In which the freakshow performances of the candidates - desperate for attention and struggling to establish dominance - disguise the actual issues that need answering.
And yet we are so far away from an actual tangible event - the primaries themselves where people finally put their votes in - that these carnival acts can continue unless the "performers" have to drop out due to lack of funds... which in this Citizens United era is going to be rare. Just Rick Perry has dropped so far, while low-tier hangers-on barely clinging to three to five percent voter support (hi, Bobby!) are threatening to stick it out until March 2016.
2) That having any debate last longer than 90 minutes should be grounds for the cable network hosting that debate to lose their FCC license.
Having the main event go so long - three hours? - is like putting an endurance test inside of a triathlon. Whereas people getting smashed using the drinking game rules would have wiped out their livers somewhere around the 45-minute mark, everyone sober would have wiped out from general fatigue around the 60-minute mark.
Granted, it's not entirely CNN's fault (or even Fox Not-News from last month). It's the fact that there's 11 main candidates - with 4 others stuck to the Kids' Table debate earlier in the afternoon) - each requiring at least a minute to answer, retort, bicker, flail, whimper and moan over the allotted time limits.
The Republicans should have installed a more stringent set of requirements for debates, or at least developed stronger inter-party control to stop half of the candidate wannabes from flooding the market.
Stringing out the debate was that the moderators showed little control of their forum. Questions led to answers that went off on tangents and dragged in extra arguments from opposing debaters to where the closing words on that argument had no relation to the original question. What should have taken three minutes to answer spread out to ten minutes of gibberish. People following the drinking games couldn't keep up with what rule they had to abide by to imbibe.
3) With regards to actual winners and losers...
Right off the bat, we should note that Trump does not lose. Well, technically he could (and has, hello bankruptcy court!) but in his own mind - and campaign bubble - Trump always wins. He can come out of a bear pit mauled half to death and claim victory because the bears attacking him finally died from the toxicity of Trump's inhuman blood.
So while the debate watchers may note that Trump got hurt often in this debate - and that he stumbled far too often to impress any "serious" people - we're not going to confirm that he lost - merely "got bloody" - until the polls show a deep slide of support. Considering that Trump's fanbase despises conventional wisdom, I doubt it.
As for the overall debate, let's ask David Graham at The Atlantic:
First, viewers learned that the presidential contenders are delighted to take swipes at each other all night, if given the opportunity.
Second, they learned that the performance that elevated Carly Fiorina from the happy-hour debate in Cleveland to the main stage at the Reagan Library was no fluke—she’s a skilled speaker.
Third, they learned that the listless performance Jeb Bush delivered last time around was no fluke either. The wounded former frontrunner once again seemed unsure how best to handle the crowded stage or the slugfest the debate became.
Most of last night's Twitter feed seem to reflect that. Even for the left-center people I follow - and some of the right-center people who peek through due to the hashtags - the consensus was that Fiorina performed like she belonged on the stage and made the most of her time punching the crap out of Trump.
From post-debate reviews, it's clear that pundits have their favorites - those who went in liking Rubio thought he did well, those who went in like Rand Paul thought he did well, those who went in liking Jeb! Bush were crying into their beers - and that for the most part nothing has really changed for them. The real answer comes with any of the reliable polls this weekend.
Of course, on the policy arguments they made, IMHO all the candidates were shilling snake oil. So there.
4) That these debates do little to highlight significant difference in policy positions between the candidates.
Oh, granted, on some points one or two of the candidates will speak against the Far Right orthodoxy. Incredibly enough, Trump speaks out against the standard Republican canard of "flat tax" or mass tax cuts for the rich. And yet he still does well with the base, which points up how tax cuts matter for the GOP Establishment (AKA the deep pocket rich guys) but they don't matter for the actual voters (most of whom share the American view of taxes as a civic virtue). Rand Paul spoke well about mass incarceration over the War on Drugs against poor people, and Kasich warned against going after Planned Parenthood. But for the most part, the candidates were in agreement over most of the issues (or at least most of the candidates were, leaving the lone wolf figures on any particular stance seem lost).
What was really at stake was everybody's egos on the stage. I won't doubt the Democratic debate in October is going to be the same way, even with the Democratic front-runners Hillary and Bernie taking significant stances on issues.
5) The drinking rules I drew up for the September debate (around 900 views) just didn't catch the fire the way the August one did (6000 views and counting).
What happened I figure is that people Google-searching for drinking games kept getting referred to the August one as a popular page and the September one just couldn't get out of its shadow. I may have to move everything to a static Page on this site just to keep one set of rules going, and refresh/add to those rules as circumstances warrant.
Did everyone's livers survive last night, by the by?