Thursday night’s Republican party debate marked the last chance to draw blood against the despised front-runner Donald Trump before Tuesday’s primary and it was anticipated that the Cuban tag-team would bring their switchblades. After last week’s brutal Detroit bastinado it was looking as though Trump would be mauled in Miami in front of a crowd packed to the rafters with shrieking Marco Rubio groupies. What else could possibly be expected after the choreographed ambush where Fox News uber-bitch Megyn Kelly methodically flayed the Donald alive in the cable TV equivalent of one of Joseph Stalin’s show trials? But a funny thing happened on the way to the primary – the dogs were called off.

The Washington Post reports that “GOP candidates set aside insults”:

There was an unfamiliar buzz on the debate stage here Thursday night: the sound of Republican presidential candidates engaging in a sober discussion of policy, rather than savaging each other.

Their 12th debate took a markedly different tone as Donald Trump’s remaining three rivals prepare for a crucial round of primaries next week that could represent their last chance of stopping him on his march to the GOP nomination.

While there were sharp exchanges, they were over Social Security, visa programs for foreign workers, how to fix the veterans’ health-care system, policy toward Cuba and the merits of free trade deals. No one mentioned “Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted” or the size of anyone’s hands.

“We’re all in this together,” Trump said. “We’re going to come up with solutions. We’re going to find the answers to things.

“And, so far, I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” the celebrity billionaire marveled.

The abandonment of the bread and circuses in favor of a kinder and gentler approach seems to be a grudging admission that the ferocious attacks on Trump have backfired. The establishment threw everything at him including several kitchen sinks and the billionaire iconoclast schlonged them all in Tuesday’s primaries and caucuses. Whether the course adjustment has been made in time to save Prince Marco – who shifted back into talking point spew mode – remains to be seen but he needs to win his home state on Tuesday or face calls to get out of the race.

The idea is to block Trump from accumulating the necessary amount of delegates and then install Mitt Romney or a recently resurfaced Jeb! at the convention with Rubio as the likely running mate. After months of being humiliated by Trump the establishment seems to finally be grasping the very simple fact he feeds off of hostility, like Godzilla he can absorb a beating and then turn the tables on attackers by unleashing a burst of fiery atomic breath, burning them to a crisp. The new civility may be too little too late but it also may slow the Trump juggernaut just enough so it can be tripped up and lured into the trap that is being set in Cleveland.

The Florida primary is this Tuesday and Jeb! has summoned Rubio, Cruz and Kasich to grovel at his feet to win his endorsement.