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Watching the Tuesday Night Fights

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Maybe it was because it was held in Las Vegas, where so many great prizefights have been held.

But Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate was easily the best yet.

CNN and Wolf Blitzer did a good, fair-and-balanced job of staging and refereeing the nine-person fight card.

Most of the time was spent discussing substantive issues like foreign policy and national security, not throwing personal low blows.

No candidate was the clear winner. No one was the unanimous loser. No one dramatically moved up or down in the rankings.

A day later it's still No. 1 Donald Trump against everyone else (except his new pal, Ted Cruz).

The final debate of 2015 wasn't as informative as it should have been, but it was like watching three boxing matches in the same ring.

One minute it was Trump and Jeb Bush going toe-to-toe, with Jeb trash-talking Trump for his harsh words about Muslims and charging him with playing on the terrorism fears of Americans.

Trump in turn dismissed Jeb as a fading candidate who was resorting to calling him "unhinged" because "he has failed in this campaign. It's been a total disaster. Nobody cares."

It didn't make me happy to tweet it, but Trump did well. He played Trump - he always does - and held his own.

It might be too little too late for Jeb Bush, but he clearly had his best debate so far.

When he said, "Donald, you're not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency," he landed one of the most memorable punches of the night.

When Donald and Jeb weren't jabbing at one another, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio fought in the main event to show who deserves to be ranked No. 2 behind Trump.

Cruz had Kid Rubio on the ropes a couple of times but couldn't knock him out.

He questioned his conservative credentials and hit him hard for his pro-amnesty position on illegal immigrants and his poor judgment on national security matters.

Rubio counterpunched, accusing his fellow Cuban-American of being soft on national security.

Then Rand Paul, the former highly ranked contender in the faded libertarian trunks, jumped in to help Cruz.

Mocking Rubio for acting like he was Mr. Tough Guy on national defense, Paul said he was "the weakest of all the candidates on immigration."

The third fight of the night was the one Chris Christie had with someone who wasn't on stage - Hillary.

Christie took a shot at Cruz and Rubio for being rookie senators who have no executive experience and only know how to write laws and argue over their details.

But he spent most of his energy going after Hillary Clinton and President Obama for understating the threat from Islamic State terrorists and pursing a reckless foreign policy in the Middle East.

Gentle Ben Carson didn't hurt or help himself in the debate. Neither did tough John Kasich. Neither did Carly Fiorina, who's never afraid to box with the boys.

The GOP now goes into 2016 with about nine or 10 too many presidential candidates.

Until Republicans get that down to three or four, which won't happen until sometime after the Iowa caucus in February, we're not going to get an old-fashioned primary debate.

When we get a real debate, voters will quickly find out the strengths and weaknesses of the Republican candidates. Voters will also learn who's the most likable and most relatable - and therefore the most electable in November.

Tuesday's debate wasn't perfect. But the fights made it a lot more exciting than anything we're going to see next year.

In fact, it was so entertaining, my family and I actually turned it on and watched it again

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