Of Punches, Poetry and Punchlines: GOP Debaters Put on a Good Show

By Al Perrotta Published on January 16, 2016

This week’s GOP debate has me feeling a bit like Dean Martin — or if you prefer, Fred and Ethel — singing, “Nuthin’ could be finer than debates in Carolina in the evening.”

You had comedy, you had drama, you had substance, you had silliness. How good a show was the GOP debate? Despite the pain and humiliation of having to abandon his own bid for the nomination, Sen. Lindsay Graham still had to have a seat in the audience. Even Democrats had enough to keep them in a Twitter and Facebook frenzy all night. Admit it, my liberal friends. You’d rather be waterboarded than watch next Sunday’s Democratic debate. In fact, no one would blame Hillary Clinton if her next extended bathroom break lasted as long as that night’s Downton Abbey. 

With the days ticking down to the Iowa caucus, all the candidates were in a raucous mood. Or at least what passes for raucous for Dr. Carson. Quips and insults were flying from the start. We also had poetry at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center last night and it came from the most unlikely source … a certain brutish billionaire. In response to Ted Cruz’s slap about “New York values,” Donald Trump offered an ode to the Big Apple that would be the envy of Billy Joel.


The smell. If you’d been in New York those days you know that smell Trump was talking about. Unfamiliar. Acrid. A touch sweet. Wrong. So wrong. Haunting for a lifetime. You could almost feel Trump’s heart break again at the memory and his emotion spoke for all six boroughs. Ted Cruz was wise enough to shut up, and simply applaud, rather than continue digging a hole even deeper than the one at Ground Zero.

Blame Canada: Cruz and Trump’s Extraordinary Exchange on the Birther Issue

Cruz had a much better go of Trump earlier during a remarkably entertaining exchange over the birther issue. It was like a good-ol’ fashioned hockey fight. Perhaps a fight between a New York Ranger and a Montreal Canadian, you might say. By the time it was through, each had offered to make the other VP, Cruz had vowed not to use Trump’s Scottish-born mother against him and Trump admitted he only brought the whole issue up because Cruz’s numbers were on the rise. That description does not do their dance justice.


It was such perfect theater. It even ended as it must — with a third person, Marco Rubio capping things with a closing one-liner: “I hate to interrupt this episode of Court TV.

Aaaaaaannnndddd scene.

It’s an Honor Just Being Nominated

It was curious watching a debate hours after the Oscar nominations were announced. Had me wondering all night what these guys might find themselves nominated for.

Best Use of Their Mother

Ben Carson for “If my mother were secretary of treasury, we would not be in a deficit situation.”

Best Use of Someone Else’s Mother

Ted Cruz for “On the issue of citizenship, Donald, I’m not going to use your mother’s birth against you.”

Best Example of Someone Who Maybe Should Have Listened to His Mother When She Poo-Pooed the Idea of Him Running

Jeb Bush

Best Use of Tough Talk While Thinking It’s 2012, Though Come to Think of It, Where Was This Tough Talk From Him in 2012?

Chris Christie for telling Obama that this fall “We’re going to kick your rear end out of the White House.”

Best Comeback That Never Was

Marco Rubio: “I saw you on the Senate floor flip your vote on crop insurance…”

Ted Cruz: “I don’t see you on the Senate floor ever.”

And finally, for Best Picture

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump stands on the stage before the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

In the 1960s, there was The Four Tops. And now, just in time for the Iowa cause and New Hampshire primary, introducing “The Three Tops!”

But lest we forget the opening act …

Snap Time Before Prime Time

We started off rewriting the lyrics to “Carolina in the Morning.” Returning to the old standard, we did discover last night that there is something “finer than to be in Carolina” … at least to Rand Paul. The Kentucky senator decided to skip the debate rather than slum it on the undercard with Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina. Or maybe he was just scared to be within range of Fiorina.

In this so-called “Happy Hour” debate, Fiorina sure threw down some shots … particularly at Hillary Clinton. Apparently she did debate prep with Ronda Rousey, charging hard at the opening bell with a line that’d make even Donald Trump shiver. “Unlike another woman in the race,” she said, “I actually love spending time with my husband.”

She’d go on to mock Hillary’s answer for what happened to her personal computer. “We need a president who understands technology in the Oval Office. Mrs. Clinton, actually you cannot wipe a server with a towel.”

She brought Hillary and Trump together for perhaps the first time since his third wedding. “Hillary Clinton sits inside government and rakes in millions … Donald Trump sits outside government and rakes in billions, buying people like Hillary Clinton.”

Fiorina’s big pitch? “You cannot wait to see the debate between me and Hillary Clinton. You would pay to see that fight.” Well, if neither makes it to the White House, they can make it to Pay-Per-View.

Fiorina’s “sharp elbows” had Time declaring her the undercard debate’s clear winner.

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