I didn’t watch CNN’s telecast of the Republican debate because I was there in person.
For some reason – maybe it was my last name -- I was able to score three second-row seats at the Reagan Library for the two debates.
More than 20 million people around the world tuned in, apparently making the three-hour debate CNN’s highest rated show ever.
It was a long night of politics and entertainment. I just hope my fellow conservative Republicans watching on TV saw the same political reality show I did -- and learned some lessons.
It’s pretty clear to everyone from Joe Scarborough to the New York Times editorial board that the three big winners Wednesday night were Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio.
All three shined on stage when it came to substance, but Fiorina made herself a national household name overnight.
She was smart, tough, passionate and quick on her feet, proving why she deserves to be on the main stage. She had several big “moments” and demonstrated a phenomenal grasp of the issues.
Christie did well, connecting with voters, hitting several questions out of the park and reminding us why he was once a favorite in the 2016 race.
Rubio still looks like he’s in grad school, but he showed he’s done his foreign policy homework and knows what makes America great.
Meanwhile, the good doctor Ben Carson was a clear loser.
He offered virtually no specifics, had no “moments” and showed that while he’s a nice guy and a great surgeon, the presidency is out of his league.
The biggest loser of the night was Trump, who was as awful in person as he reportedly appeared on millions of split-screen TVs.
He made crazy faces, offended people, refused to apologize when he should have, spoke in his usual platitudes and never said a substantive sentence.
I heard more than a few groans and complaints from the Republicans sitting behind me.
Most of the other candidates – the governors and others who were not there because of their celebrity – did OK. They didn’t hurt themselves but they didn’t stand out, either.
Jeb Bush did better than last time, which isn’t saying much, but he’s in for the long haul. He’ll do better when there are fewer candidates left and the debates turn more serious.
Scott Walker did better too, though he seemed to disappear sometime late in hour two. Last time I remember seeing him, he was staring at fiery Fiorina and nodding in agreement like a bobblehead.
Ted Cruz was correct on all the issues, but he’s not as likable as Rubio, whose only flaw is he still looks like he’s in grad school.
Mike Huckabee got in a lick or two, but he’s still beating the drum for his Fair Tax, which everyone except him knows will never go anywhere.
Rand Paul was there, I think. So was Gov. John Kasich. Kasich was Kasich – solid and substantive.
He’s a winner who knows how to govern Ohio sensibly, but he probably should have been included in the preliminary debate with Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham.
The opening debate, which Graham stole with his humor and GOP team spirit, was better in some ways because without the 2,000-pound celebrity in the room it was all substance.
I’m concerned about Trump for a lot of reasons. Yet for all the trouble he’s causing the GOP, his celebrity presence is actually doing real conservatives a great favor.
He’s already brought tens of millions of new eyeballs to the debate broadcasts that otherwise would never have been made aware of the existence of candidates like Fiorina or Kasich.
I just hope those millions of viewers saw what I saw at the Reagan Library – that Emperor Trump had no clothes on and most of the other real Republican candidates were well dressed.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant. Send comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com. Follow @reaganworld on Twitter