With seven qualifiers in Thursday night's Fox News primetime debate — and a noticeably absent Donald Trump — analysts are divided on who the real "winner" of the night was. Generally, most agree that Sen. Ted Cruz had an awkward night after he grew snappy with the moderators for tough questions while Jeb Bush showed some badly overdue liveliness. Here is a look at what some experts had to say:
"Cruz had a fantastic ethanol answer, but he didn't shine tonight like he did last time. Bush was better. Rand Paul did extremely well." — Charles C. W. Cooke, writer for National Review
"Rand Paul was my surprise best of the night. He was crisp, sharp and to the point." — Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush
"Jeb Bush is like a Shakespeare protagonist wandering through a Charlie Sheen sitcom." — Glenn Thrush, chief political correspondent of Politico
"I think Rubio probably won tonight’s debate. Unintended consequence of Trump skipping the debate?" — Matt Lewis, senior contributor to The Daily Caller
"While Trump was across town being carried live by every other network, and while he, not the other GOP candidates, dominated social media, the rest of the Republican field desperately and hopelessly failed to catch up to him." — Brad Woodhouse, president of the liberal research group Correct the Record [The New York Times]
In our coverage of the debate, Peter Weber wrote that, "Donald Trump probably won Thursday night's Republican debate in Des Moines, Iowa, by simply not showing up.That's partly a testament to Fox News, which brought in a new trick — confronting candidates with video of them contradicting their current positions — to the debate, putting Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) in a tough spot. Trump would almost certainly have been subject to the same treatment, and it probably wouldn't have been pretty."
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chair of the House Freedom Caucus, responded Sunday to President Trump's tweeted attack on his group of legislators for their role in defeating the American Health Care Act, the insurance bill Republican leadership supported but the conservatives lawmakers opposed.
"Congressman," said ABC's This Week host George Stephanopoulos, "the president days he's going to move on, and he's blaming you for 'saving Planned Parenthood, saving ObamaCare.'" Meadows argued, contra Trump, that this "is not the end of the debate" and to end the health-care conversation now is "like saying Tom Brady lost at half-time" in the 2017 Super Bowl.
"We may be in overtime," Meadows conceded, "but I can tell you at the very end of the day, the most valuable player will be President Trump on this because he will deliver." Meadows expressed hope that conservative and moderate wings of the GOP can work together to craft a new health-care bill soon.
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) March 26, 2017
House Freedom Caucus Vice Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) took a less conciliatory note while speaking on Fox News Sunday. "The fact that we opposed [the AHCA], we did the country a favor because this bill didn't repeal Obamacare," he said. "Let's be responsible, get back to work and do what we told the American people what we were going to accomplish, which is repeal Obamacare and replace it with a patient-centered health care program." Bonnie Kristian
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus went to bat on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, addressing the failure of the White House-supported American Health Care Act as well as its political aftermath.
Priebus denied President Trump intended to obliquely support calls for House Speaker Paul Ryan's resignation in his tweeted recommendation of a Justice with Judge Jeanine episode that demanded the Wisconsin Republican step down. Trump's tweet was "more coincidental" and did not involve any "pre-planning," Priebus insisted over Wallace's protest. The president does not blame Ryan or wish him to resign, Priebus continued.
As for the future of American health care, Priebus said, "everything's on the table." The Trump team is not "closing the door on anything," he told Wallace, adding that "it would be nice to get some Democrats on board."
However, he rebuffed Wallace's suggestion that it is unreasonable for Trump to blame Democrats for the AHCA's de facto failure when the White House did not solicit any Democratic support or input. Democrats "weren't going to give us a single vote," Priebus maintained, but "when ObamaCare does ultimately explode, which it will, we're going to be prepared to lead again, and if Democrats come on board with a plan down the road, we'll welcome that."
Watch a brief except of Priebus' comments below. Bonnie Kristian
Wallace asks Priebus how Dems can be to blame when they were never at table. Priebus: "You're right...time for the (GOP) to start governing" pic.twitter.com/YFIPj4ZteM
— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) March 26, 2017
At least 200 people were arrested in Moscow, local authorities reported, after taking part in one of multiple unsanctioned protests against Russian government corruption on Sunday.The crowd in Moscow's Pushkin Square was estimated to be about 7,000 people who gathered under the leadership of Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny was among those arrested. His Foundation for Fighting Corruption organized the rallies, which took place in cities across Russia, after publishing information alleging Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev lives in luxury his public service salary could not possibly provide.
— Alex Kokcharov (@AlexKokcharov) March 26, 2017
Russian state media did not cover the protests, which are the largest anti-government demonstrations in Russia since allegations of a tainted parliamentary election stoked dissatisfaction in 2011 and 2012. Bonnie Kristian
Following Friday's canceled vote on the American Health Care Act, the GOP plan to reform ObamaCare which failed significantly because of intra-party opposition, the finger pointing has begun.
President Trump has blamed Democratic leadership as well as the House Freedom Caucus, which organized conservative resistance in Congress. In a tweet Sunday morning, he extended that attack to two conservative advocacy organizations, the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth, which he charged with helping Planned Parenthood and ObamaCare.
Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017
Privately, the president is believed to share the critique of House Speaker Paul Ryan's leadership which other Republicans have begun to publicly level. On Saturday, he recommended his Twitter followers watch a Fox News show episode that called for Ryan's resignation from his post.
Outside of Washington, the AHCA was generally unpopular, but its demise — coupled with Trump's assertions that ObamaCare will now "explode" on its own — has produced widespread uncertainty. Bonnie Kristian
A crash in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday has led ridesharing company Uber to suspend its self-driving car program. No one was seriously hurt in the incident, but the self-driving Volvo was flipped on its side after another vehicle "failed to yield" appropriately at a left turn.
"There was a person behind the wheel" of the Volvo at the time of the crash, said an Uber representative, and it "is uncertain at this time if they were controlling the vehicle at the time of the collision." The vehicle had two "safety drivers" in its front seats because, as Uber said at its pilot program's rollout, driverless cars "require human intervention in many conditions, including bad weather."
Violence broke out at a Make America Great Again rally south of Los Angeles on Saturday as supporters of President Trump scuffled with counter-protesters. About 2,000 Trump fans were gathered in Huntington Beach, California, when multiple fights erupted in the crowd.
At least one Trump supporter was pepper-sprayed by a Trump opponent wearing a black mask, who was then tackled, punched, and kicked by multiple rally attendees. Four counter-protesters were arrested, local law enforcement said, three of them for illegal pepper spray use.
Attendees described the event as a celebration of Trump plus Vice President Mike Pence, veterans, first responders, and patriotism in general. "Thanks you for all of the Trump Rallies today," Trump tweeted Saturday night. "Amazing support. We will all MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!" Bonnie Kristian
"Watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M.," President Trump tweeted Saturday morning — hardly an unusual post for a president known for his love of cable news shows. But in that evening's episode, Judge Jeanine Pirro kicked off her program with a demand for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to resign.
"Ryan needs to step down as Speaker of the House. The reason, he failed to deliver the votes on his health-care bill, the one trumpeted to repeal and replace ObamaCare," she said, insisting the de facto demise of the bill — backed by Ryan and Trump alike — "is not on President Trump" because "no one expected a businessman to completely understand the nuances, the complicated ins and outs of Washington and its legislative process. How would he know on what individuals he could rely?"
Pirro said she did not discuss her message with the president before the show.
While Trump has not explicitly blamed Ryan for the defeat, the House speaker is in a difficult position after his legislation alienated the most conservative and moderate wings of his party alike. Bonnie Kristian