This time, Jeb Bush keeps clear of Marco Rubio
Jeb Bush learned his lesson.
This time, the former governor kept clear of engaging Marco Rubio. Partly that was the result of disciplined moderators. But Bush also clearly knew it wasn’t worth risking another whiff, as he did last debate in challenging Rubio’s absenteeism in Washington. Bush instead tried to draw several contrasts with Hillary Clinton and Democrats.
Smart move as Rubio was yet again on Tuesday night in Milwaukee. He got lucky, too. Moderators skipped over Rubio during a discussion about immigration and then offered him a silver platter question about Hillary Clinton's experience. It had Rubio struggling to contain his glee even before his answer about moving beyond “the past” came out of his mouth. Throughout the night Rubio showed command of the issues, particularly foreign policy. His line about needing more welders than philosophers got widespread attention.
At times Rubio seemed too rehearsed and the costs of his proposals came into view courtesy of Rand Paul. It’s something to watch but no doubt Rubio will continue to rise. Ted Cruz also had a good night, and he and Rubio are headed toward a confrontation.
Bush was decent.
Here’s Adam Smith:
This was definitely Jeb Bush's strongest debate to date, although that's not saying much. The former Florida governor apparently decided not to try criticizing Marco Rubio or any other rivals, and it appeared to make him more comfortable. Bush sounded informed, and sometimes forceful, but he did still look like a supporting player on the stage — especially as Donald Trump ordered him to be quiet. But Bush simply could not afford another weak debate performance, and his showing Tuesday night should reassure a lot of his supporters.