(Chuck Muth) – If the debate was a horse race, here’s how I think they finished last night for varying reasons…1.) Ron DeSantis – by five lengths. It wasn’t even close. Clearly the most presidential candidate on stage, with not just rhetoric and promises but a track record to back it up. 2.) Aside from DeSantis, Nikki Haley came off as the most substantive – though she stumbled by getting into a heated and un-intelligible to-and-fro with Tim Scott and falsely accusing DeSantis of opposing fracking. 3.) I initially thought Chris Christie came in third, but upon further reflection I actually think Doug Burgum got the bronze. Substantive, with a successful record as governor. Just not as successful as DeSantis. I’d like to hear more from him. 4.) I’m no fan of Christie, but he’s the only one on stage who talks to the “average Joe” in the language the average Joe speaks and understands. Had a few good one-liners, while others bombed. “Donald Duck” was too cute by half. 5.) Mike Pence makes watching paint dry look like a WWE Royal Rumble match. He’s that boring. Talks like your standard, run-of-the-mill, inside-the-beltway politician. His jokes – even when good – land with a dead cat thump. Crickets. 6.) I find Vivek Ramaswamy annoying as hell. Reminds me of Eddie Haskell from “Leave It to Beaver” (no, Sigal, that’s NOT a porn movie). He obviously believes he’s the smartest guy in the room and talks down to the average Joe as such. He’s got the pitter-patter down, but there’s no “there” there experience-wise. 7.) If Tim Scott was too meek and passive in the first debate, he over-compensated last night. Just plain obnoxious. Constantly interrupting. Constantly talking over everybody. And taking Kamala Harris’ side in the “redeeming quality” slavery hoax perpetrated on DeSantis was infuriating. 8.) Donald Trump: scratched About Trump… This is decidedly NOT the Donald Trump so many of us supported in 2016 and during his four years in the Oval Office. This morning, in one of his incessant fundraising emails, Trump wrote that “a handful of RINOs shamelessly attacked yours truly” in the debate. First, the seven Republicans on the stage last night may be a lot of things, but they – nor their supporters – aren’t “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only). Secondly, if he was so butt-hurt by the attacks, then he should get on the stage and defend his record. I don’t buy that he’s “afraid” to debate this year’s field. I think he’s getting bad advice from the same bad advisors that cost him his re-election in 2020. There are legitimate questions about his administration he should answer for – especially related to how he and Tony Fauci shut down the country over COVID and the exploding national debt during his years in office. His excuse that he thought it was more important to visit with striking auto workers than face the music doesn’t fly. He could have visited with those auto workers anytime before or after the debate. And the excuse that he’s supposedly 50 points up in national polls is no better. First, the poll he referenced in today’s fundraising pitch was done by the Washington Post – the newspaper he’s referred to as “fake news” for years. But now we’re suddenly supposed to believe them? Puh-lease. Secondly, the national polls mean NOTHING at this point. Frankly, the only thing that matters right now is IOWA, where polling between him and DeSantis is decidedly closer. And if DeSantis pulls off an upset in Iowa, all bets are off. Which is why the Trump campaign is now calling for the Republican National Committee (RNC) to cancel any further debates. Trump doesn’t want the nomination. He wants an anointment. We’ll see how that plays in Iowa in the coming days/weeks. If the race tightens, don’t be surprised to see Trump suddenly reverse course and join the others on stage for the next debate. That said, I think he absolutely IS afraid to debate DeSantis one-on-one, as DeSantis challenged after last night’s debate. I’d pay to see that one. Now…the biggest loser last night: FOX News. Good Lord, they were HORRIBLE. Three moderators doing the job of one and none of them could get the candidates to stop talking over one another. In addition, I couldn’t understand Ilia Calderón without closed captioning, and it appeared some of the candidates on stage were having the same problem. The debate opened up with moderator Stuart Varney declaring: “We have questions on a wide variety of issues important to primary voters.” But the first question from moderator Dana Perino ridiculously compared Ronald Reagan’s firing of air traffic controllers in 1980 to the current auto workers’ strike. “Would you fire thousands of striking auto workers today, senator?” she asked Scott. Not only was the comparison absurd – the president can’t fire private union workers the way Reagan did to the government air traffic controllers – but I’m pretty sure this isn’t exactly a hot-button issue on the minds of GOP primary voters. And THAT’S what she led with? And not a single question about COVID, including Trump’s “15 days to slow the spread” nationwide shutdown and the “Fauci ouchie”? I’m pretty sure that IS a hot-button issue on the minds of GOP primary voters. As for Perino’s insipid “which one of you onstage tonight should be voted off the island?” question, she must have thought she was hosting a game show instead of a serious debate on who should be the next leader of the free world. Fortunately, DeSantis shut the silly question down by refusing to play – and the other candidates joined him. If FOX wants to lighten the mood and inject some levity into the proceedings, just have Greg Gutfeld moderate the next one. Wrapping up… Last night’s GOP presidential candidate debate was held at the Reagan Library in California. So all seven of Trump’s opponents on the stage were only a short hour-long flight away from Nevada; #3 of the four early-voting states. Ramaswamy – the Trump Lite candidate who has already announced he’ll be participating in the party-run caucus instead of the state-run primary – will be in Vegas on Sunday. But after the Nevada Republican Central Committee approved holding a separate “caucus” two days after the scheduled state-run primary, Haley cancelled the campaign event she had scheduled for Reno tomorrow. None of the other candidates saw it worth their while to pop over to the Silver State for a campaign event even though they were already out here on the West Coast. Heckuva job, Nevada GOP! FAMOUS LAST WORDS “Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.” – Nikki Haley to Vivek Ramaswamy in Wednesday’s debate Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views, and founder of CampaignDoctor.com. You can sign up for his conservative, Nevada-focused e-newsletter at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.