All Trump all the time.
That’s my takeaway from last night’s “Trump Fest” brought to you by CNN.
CNN clearly understood that it had the makings of a ratings bonanza in its airing of this second GOP debate. They also correctly assessed that this ratings opportunity was due in no uncertain terms to the bombastic vitriol that is Donald J. Trump.
So network executives decided to capitalize on their good fortune by expanding the debate to a marathon two and three quarter hours and staging an event that pitted the ten other candidates against Donald Trump.
One by one the candidates were asked to respond to a personal attack that Trump had levied against them. As each candidate responded the cameras caught Trump’s reaction on split screen. Trump was then given the opportunity to respond.
All Trump all the time.
As a result it was difficult for all the candidates to push through the sophomoric food fight and get their message out. Some candidates got very little air time as Trump dominated the conversation.
That said there were a few candidates that managed to rise above the fray.
I thought Marco Rubio and John Kasich made a good accounting of themselves. Rubio was particularly strong on foreign affairs and Kasich, sounding more like a general election candidate than a conservative primary hopeful, spoke of the need for compromise and coalition building to get things done both at home and abroad.
Jeb Bush made a valiant attempt to show that he really did want to be there. He did his best to push back at Trump…though he looked uncomfortable doing it.
Chris Christie gave his best performance since bridge gate. But by-in-large they all seemed to fade into a blur as the marathon debate wore on.
Except for Carly Fiorina.
Fiorina was hands down the clear winner in this debate. He answers were crispy and clear. She was well versed on the issues and eloquent in her delivery. She exhibited an inner strength when the discussion turned to foreign policy; and allowed her passion and emotion to be revealed when she talked about abortion and the legalization of marijuana. Fiorina and her husband lost a son to drug abuse.
Like the other candidates Fiorina was asked to respond to one of Trump’s personal attacks. Unlike the other candidates she refused to engage in the food fight; preferring to allow Trump’s own words to do the talking for her.
Moments earlier Trump had blasted Bush for saying: “I don’t think we need $500 million for women’s health services.” As Bush tried to deflect Trump kept screaming: “I heard you say it…I was watching…I heard you say it.”
Moderator Jake Tapper then asked Fiorina if she cared to respond to Trump’s comments published in a Rolling Stone interview where Trump said about Fiorina: ‘Look at that face. Can you imagine anyone voting for that?”
Fiorina gathered herself and then calmly said: “It’s interesting…I just heard Mr. Trump say to Mr. Bush: I heard you say it. I think millions of women heard exactly what Mr. Trump said.” Game...set…match.
I expect to see Fiorina’s masterful performance rewarded in the polls.
And what of Mr. Trump’s performance.
In my opinion Mr. Trump gave his worst performance by far. He was exposed for his lack of specifics on the issues as well as his oft times unseemly rhetoric. He offered nothing new…repeating the same bombastic generalities that we have heard so many times before.
That said I do not believe that Trump’s poor performance will hurt him in the polls. His supporters will stick with him in large part because they will be sympathetic toward him over what they will most certainly perceive as unfair treatment (piling on) by both his opponents and the network.
As proof I offer you the unscientific online polls conducted by Times Magazine and Drudge immediately after the debate. They show Trump winning the debate by 64% and 57% respectively.
One final thought.
Setting aside for the moment the individual performances of the eleven candidates on that stage; there was a several very clear messages resonating throughout the debate.
This is a group of people that has a strong aversion to Mexican immigrants and would like nothing better than to round them all up and send them packing. It is a group that detests Planned Parenthood and would like to see it shut down…period. This is also a group that believes that the best way to deal with our problems in the Middle East, North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Iran and Russia is with military force. These beliefs stand in stark contrast with those expressed by the Democratic Party.
I don’t know who the eventual nominee will be for either party. But it is clear that the voters will have a clear contrast on which to choose.