By the third hour of CNN’s GOP presidential debate, the candidates looked like long-distance runners fading in the final lap: A sweating Marco Rubio ran his hands through his hair, Chris Christie’s face turned red, a sagging Donald Trump grasped his lectern for support and, at times, seemed to crumple into his suit.
By the time moderator Jake Tapper asked each of the 11 participants to pick a Secret Service code name, a question meant to provoke bright responses but that fell flat, the combatants were out of gas and operatives were getting restless for the post-debate the spin room.
The second GOP presidential debate was, in the nearly unanimous opinion of the campaigns, both too long and too loosely governed.
“It was a little bit like a Charles Dickens story. It might’ve been good, but it would’ve been better if there had been an editor involved,’ quipped Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s campaign manager.