In an appropriate prelude to the “main event” debate, Bobby Jindal didn’t show up for the big 16-candidate photo op; he was still back in the spin room, probably fulminating against the rest of them. This prima donna move was earlier executed by Donald Trump, who showed up at the Reagan Library seconds before the kiddie table debate began.

Hard to believe the CNN crew’s hype is more annoying than Fox’s, but it is.

The whole Air Force One backdrop is just weird, as though it’s a quiz show prize for the winner.

30-second intros:

Paul goes with the one that brung him: the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Huck’s pander to “Mr. T” really treacly.

Rubio delivers lame-o joke about his water bottle, which probably most people had long forgotten about.

Carson does his Mr. Rogers routine, does a smart shout-out to Carly, and manages not to mention Saul Alinsky.

Trump very vanilla in his opening.

Jeb still kinda low-energy.

Walker first to directly compare himself to St. Ronald.

Carly sounds ready for her pre-ordained Big Night.

Kasich one-ups everybody by pointing to Reagan’s Air Force One and saying he flew in it!

Christie had the cameras turned on the mega-donors in the audience because it’s about them! Don’t think he realized how that sounded.

First question to Carly about Trump temperament to handle the nuclear codes. Really? Are we doing this again? Tapper asked a second time, and Fiorina smartly said it was up to the voters.

In the first follow-up, Trump says Rand Paul should be booted off the stage for being eleventh.

Paul gets huffy about it, then refers to his “sophomoric comedy” and “junior high” manners.

Trump suggests he could have made fun of Paul’s appearance–“plenty of material there.”

Trump told to explain to Jeb–standing next to him–how he’s a serious candidate. Trump sideswipes Pataki (!), who dissed him at the kiddie table.

What are we–twenty minutes in? And we’re still talking about Trump.

Walker gets off his pre-fab line about “there’s already an apprentice in the White House.” Trump comes right back at Walker’s record in Wisconsin, says it’s why Walker is tanking in Iowa.

Donors love Walker line: “Just because he says it doesn’t make it true.”

Kasich guarantees his moment in the highlight reel by complaining about the “ad hominem” stuff.

So this is a pattern: Christie asked about something Carson said about politicians. Christie brags about his veto record.

Carson asked if experience really doesn’t matter. Doesn’t really answer it, but Carly does: quotes polls on government-hatred.

Incredible: Jeb asked another Trump question re his claim Jeb a “puppet” of donors. Jeb goes back to his resume, then accuses Trump of trying to give him money to get a casino in Florida. Trump says: “If I had wanted it, I would have gotten it.”

Trump/Bush crosstalk about attending Clinton wedding: Trump: “More energy tonight, I like that.”

Carson jumps in and does his power-peopled-campaign number.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.