The only debate performances that matter are those by people with a chance of winning.  So Carson, Trump, Christie and Huckabee are superfluous.  It may be premature, but I have to include Rand Paul in this category as well.  I have never for one moment believed Bush could win, and nothing from last night changed my thinking.

So, for me, it’s two accomplished midwest Governors  and two unaccomplished first term Senators.  Rubio is easily the smoothest and most effective debater, but in the end he needs seasoning.  The Vice Presidency is perfect for him.  Cruz is an unappealing man.  He lacks warmth.  He scares people.  His tone is wrong.  He’s perfect for Mark Levin, but rage won’t win this election.

Scott Walker is for real.  He didn’t shine last night.  That’s something he doesn’t do.  But he did just fine.  It’s apparent that he was thoroughly prepared.  But he is wooden and lacks spontaneity.  He’s better than he was a year ago, but in the end he is not an inspiring man.  But as the Republican nominee, he’d do.

Kasich won the debate, hands down, when you analyze it this way.  He looked at ease, didn’t try too hard, and was himself.  I really can’t see how he could have done much better. Substantively, his close was great.  Conservative accomplishment contrasted with conservative rhetoric.  People are just starting to get to know John Kasich.  They’re going to like what they see, if he keeps his cool.  Hats off to him and his whole campaign.  These guys know what they’re doing.

It’s not what you call yourself, but what you are.  John Kasich started out as a Reagan Republican.  He still is, in my book.  He didn’t manage to work in much about Reagan, but that’s just as well.  The next debate is at the Reagan Library, the perfect venue for reminiscences about the Gipper.  As these debates roll along, everyone will be looking for something new to talk about.  That’s when the Article V BBA will come up, which will be very good for Kasich.  Describing how he went to Arizona, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and South Carolina not to campaign for himself, but to campaign for a Balanced Budget Amendment, is good politics.

The Heartland Institute wants to raise and spend $400,000 a year for five years promoting Article V.  These are smart, well connected people who know where the money is.  Lew Uhler and Dave Guldenschuh will be working closely with them, with Dave making the BBA pitch at a meeting later this month in Dallas.  Another iron in the fire.  We’re getting closer to a breakthrough with the money people.  Dave Biddulph gets to make a pitch next week to Americans for Prosperity, a Koch affiliate.  If we could ever overcome the Koch family aversion to Article V we’d be home free.  Utah Senator Mike Lee finally came around.  So can the Kochs.  Let’s make it Koch/Soros steel cage death match.  Go Daves.

I’m a dying breed  — a Goldwater Republican.  Hard core.  Barry Goldwater was a great guy and a complete patriot, and will be my hero forever.  Kasich is not a Goldwater Republican, but he is a conservative, and, at my age, that’s good enough.  And he has a chance to do something really big, something a more conservative candidate perhaps couldn’t do.   Not just winning, but winning big.  A landslide, bigger than 1980.  Read a little history.  Look at 1920, and compare it to today.

All is predicated on the tide, and it’s building.

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