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Hundreds of conservative activists watched the Republican primary debates here in Atlanta at the RedState Gathering, a summit set to feature 10 of the presidential candidates over the next two days. Msnbc joined them for what turned out to be a raucous, riotous, and spectacularly memorable GOP face-off. Here’s what we took away:
1. Trump is really good at being Trump. It’s not hard to see where the Trump train might go off the tracks.2. The RNC hasn’t fixed the debates.
The debates were a popular whipping boy after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lost to President Obama in 2012 – GOP leaders blamed them for encouraging intraparty sniping, trapping candidates in dangerous general election positions, and they denounced non-conservative news outlets for embarrassing candidates with esoteric wedge issues. For 2016, the RNC unveiled new rules designed to strongly reduce the number of sanctioned debates, which began in May last time around. This time the host was Fox News, the GOP’s go-to favorite outlet, but the moderators were relentless in picking at divides between the candidates and pinning them down on uncomfortable issues. 3. It’s hard to stand out. Rubio, Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich all delivered solid performances, but given Trump’s gravity field it will be interesting to see whether anyone can get a serious boost. Trump spoke for 10.5 minutes, easily more than anyone else – the next closest with two minutes less, was Bush, and no one else got much more than 6.5 minutes by NBC News’ informal count.
Kasich made the most of his brief time to showcase his blue-collar roots and fended off a tough question on why he accepted Obamacare funding to expand Medicaid.
4. The kids table is no fun. Everyone in the main debate won big by not being in the second-tier debate.
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