http://f9:03: “Brilliant legal scholar” and a moment of silence. GAME ON!

9:07: Trump decided to go Google a few good options for SCOTUS. But otherwise, he seems resigned to the idea that Obama will nominate.
Kaisich doesn’t want this to run into politics, and thinks the best idea is to either not nominate, or else nominate someone everybody just love, l0ve, loves. Good idea.
Carson: doesn’t think lifetime appointments are a very good idea. Also, we don’t need to be political, we need healing, fuck Obama.
Rubio: pretty boy studied some talking points. Says it’s not unprecedented, but cites a completely bogus idea that lame duck presidents don’t nominate. Forgetting the God of Republicans, Reagan.
Bush: Surprisingly lucent argument that nominating justices with no record isn’t working. Better to fight for the nomination you want. We need concensus, so fuck Obama..
Cruz: “80 years of not confirming.” Getting the facts straight gets a boo from the audience. But the grandstand on the SCOTUS is actually very effective and sounds legitimately heart-felt. Really, I think he comes off a lot better than Trump, whom to the crazies, probably sounds too soft.

9:18: Trump’s commentary on our overall foreign policy is lucid and effective. Not specific, but very few politicians are in this context. Rubio is the best speech maker on the stage. But I don’t hear a lot that is any less robotic than it was before. Carson just sounds wobbly in the beginning, but his idea of being an experimental doctor is interesting. Not sure if interesting gets across in this environment. Kaisich is way too wonky. Bush sounds schooled and informed. His answers sound rational and considered, not posed and rehearsed.

9:27: Trump says you can’t fight two wars in front of a room full of people who supported fighting two wars for how long? Oh, and he tries the “special interests” joke a second time. Bush rises to the “bitch-slap politics” of Trump pretty decent, in my view. He still sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. Trump just sounds angry. Cruz argues against regime change in front of a room full of people who have supported regime change for how long? He also supports air attacks, which generally is received as pussy work by Republicans.

9:32Vomiting child break. Sorry. I won’t be continuing this live blog. But the statements on the SCOTUS were what I was after.

9:50: Ok, I’m back. Kaisich sounds informed. But in being informed, he’s required to accept the expansion of Medicare, which is an anathema. “Repeal and replace” is the Bush line. I’m not sure that the “replace” thing works anymore for Republican audiences. Kaisich cites Reagan. It becomes a Traditional Conservative-off. Probably not a winning strategy. I don’t know what the hell Ben Carson just said. Absolutely no idea.

Commercial break thoughts: It is genuinely breathtaking how little sanity seems to matter in this primary. Kaisich and Bush have substantive differences on real policy issues. And they’re fighting an uphill battle against pure id and bitch-slap. How does any of that anger play out against an electorate made up of people who actively support the things Republicans are so pissed off about?

Trump seems a lot more focused on genuine answers to policy questions than in the past. He’s got his applause lines. He’s not letting go of the Republican Screaming Id’s hand. But he’s also getting just serious enough to be taken seriously by the people who want him out, the Republican establishment.

Also: what does “vicerous” mean?

10:04: Cruz tries to get in on the “donor class” schtick. Trump can do that. Cruz needs those dollars. Cruz’s debate skills are showing through, though. Somehow, Rubio backs Cruz up on his record on immigration and it backfires against Cruz. Bush is a lot less informed on this issue, or else doesn’t know how to communicate it. Least of all to this red-meat crowd.

Jeb Bush’s defense against Trump was laughably weak. But Trump’s whole “take his pants off” thing is weirdly weak as well. Kaisich argues for less negative adverts. In a Republican primary. What is he smoking?

10:14: Shorter Carson: Financial execs committing crimes? We need less regulation! Because reasons! Cruz can’t even complete a sentence when the question is about helping the poor and minorities. Trump gets asked a basic question. He spins it into a crap argument about “deal making.” He was asked how he could promise taxes on companies leaving America like he promised his supporters.

Commercial break thoughts: Trump is way off right now. It really seems like he’s trying to pivot to the general right now by offering solutions that sound cogent. This is exactly what most observers have always assumed he would do eventually. But right now seems way too early. What is he seeing in South Carolina that the rest of us don’t? He’s four points ahead and falling in SC. Arguments among the second tier seem focused on seeming rational to the Republican donor class, which has yet to fully commit to anyone specifically.

10:24: Trump is now a “common-sense Conservative.” Fully in pivot mode. Meanwhile, Cruz hits Trump on abortion. Trump responds with bitch-slap about lying.