The Winners and Losers Tonight

Darren Hauck / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

As usual, the crew liveblogged Tuesday night’s GOP debate from Milwaukee, and you can read the whole thing here. David Graham’s concise takeaway:

Who won? Fox Business Network, for one; Marco Rubio for another. It was a wonky night, with a few truly fascinating exchanges between the candidates and a couple notable gaffes, including one from Ted Cruz.

His full post-debate analysis is here, which begins:

Improbably, the greatest moment so far in the Republican debates came during a wonky discussion of tax policy.

It came as the GOP candidates debated in Milwaukee Tuesday night. The magical exchange kicked off with a question to Ben Carson about his tax plan, which he’s said is based on Biblical tithing. Carson’s answer was revealing: He made clear he’d eliminate all tax credits, including the earned-income tax credit and the home-mortgage-interest deduction, a significantly regressive change. Then Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both got tough questions about their tax plans, which are projected to create enormous revenue shortfalls. When neither man explained how they’d fill that hole in the deficit, moderator Maria Bartiromo pushed them on it. (Not that they offered much of an answer.)

Next, the moderators turned to Marco Rubio, asking him to defend his costly proposal for a child tax credit increase. Paul jumped in, asking Rubio how he could call himself a conservative when he would create a new entitlement and increase defense spending. Soon Cruz jumped in, agreeing with Rubio that defense spending was important. Then Carly Fiorina piped up, making a plea for zero-based budgeting.

It was a great moment—great as politics, and great as entertainment. The candidates were engaged in substantive debates about their respective ideas for the economy. The moderators sparked the conversation but mostly had the good sense to stay out things once the discussion had begun rolling. And the candidates were confronting each other directly—but on matters of policy, rather than picking on each other over picayune matters. If debates are intended to give voters a sense of the candidates’ positions and personalities, those few minutes were as good as it gets.

You can the read the whole thing here, and we’ll have more coverage in the morning. Here’s a roundup of tweets and RTs from other Atlantic staffers during the debate, in rough chronological order: