VDARE: Overall, Donald Trump had a strong performance in last night’s GOP debate, aside from his catastrophic mishandling of the H-1b issue and forgetting his own platform. Of course, that sounds like someone saying, “Well aside from that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”
Still, politically,Trump may not be harmed by this debate. Let’s examine why.
1. Trump has never had a good debate, and it hasn’t hurt him.
Donald Trump is not a great debater. He’s not a bad debater, unlike “serious” politician Jeb Bush, who has no business being on stage. But he’s never had a truly dominant performance.
In the first debate, everyone was expecting Trump to crash and burn. He didn’t, so he won.
In the second debate, Carly Fiorina, objectively speaking, was a superior debater. This led to a Carly boomlet and weird Rich Lowry fantasies about “strong woman” Fiorina “cutting Trump’s balls off” [Rich Lowry: Fiorina Cut Trump’s Balls Off With the Precision of a Surgeon, by Ian Hanchett, Breitbart, September 23, 2015] Yet Trump emerged stronger than ever and Fiorina faded away. Last night, the Xena Warrior Princess of the GOP Establishment practically faded into the background.
And in the 3rd debate, Trump had some genuinely great moments. He had a strong opening, blowing Kasich out of the water. He had a hilarious bit about forcing CNBC to cut the length of the debate and used his closing statement to effectively restate the themes of his campaign. He had candidates actively kissing up to him (witness Mike Huckabee bragging about wearing a Trump tie). He effortlessly dismantled challenges to his tax plan by appealing to CNBC’s own Larry Kudlow, showing the political wisdom of a supply side approach on this issue.
Even his H1-b flub will be interpreted by many as a victory. The critical soundbite was Trump responding to Becky Quick’s question about where she came up with Trump’s quote about Rubio being “Mark Zuckerburg’s personal Senator.” Trump fired back, “I don’t know, you people write this stuff” [Trump Embarrasses Moderator: “I don’t know… You people write this stuff“, by Christian Datoc, Daily Caller, October 28, 2015]
Good line. The fact that the source of the quote was Trump’s own platform might be lost on many.
In the age of Vine, the soundbite is king. And Trump is good at that.
2. Mainstream GOP analysts think Trump is getting better.
Erick Erickson writes:
Don’t look now, but Donald Trump had his best debate performance in Boulder and I say that as a frequent critic.
He had a great encounter, deservedly so, with the pretentious jerk from Ohio and put Kasich in his place. Then he turned several really just jackass level questions around on the moderators without being overly antagonistic to either them or the other candidates on stage.
It was genuinely his best debate performance of the campaign.
[Donald Trump Had His Best Debate Performance Ever, Erick on the Radio, October 29, 2015]
The Weekly Standard observes:
Over the last few weeks, Trump has gotten better on the stump. Well, don’t look now, but he’s getting better at debates, too. Trump was reasonably disciplined. He kept his agro to a medium-high level. And his situational awareness is getting keener, too. Note how he backed John Kasich into such a bad corner on Lehmann Brothers that he protested, “I was a banker, and I was proud of it!” When that’s your answer, you’ve lost the exchange. Even at a Republican debate.
And Trump had a hammer close: “Our country doesn’t win anymore. We used to win. We don’t anymore.” I remain convinced that this line (along with his hardliner on immigration) is the core of Trump’s appeal. But he didn’t just restate this theme in his closing argument. He used it to: (1) beat up CNBC; and (2) argue that his man-handling of these media twits is an example of what he’ll do as president. It was brilliant political theater.
[We Have Our Final Six, by Jonathan V. Last, October 28, 2015]
The Strange New Respect for Trump’s debating prowess shows Beltway Right types may be reconciling themselves to the idea of Trump as the GOP nominee, or at least as somebody whose endorsement and support the GOP nominee will desperately need. And objectively speaking, he is getting better, just as he is getting better on the stump.
3. The polls all show he won
As is his style, Trump is trumpeting the online polls showing that most people think he won the debates. This means the Main Stream Media has to report the story that Trump “won” last night.