Don’t be expecting too much from tomorrow’s presidential debate, or any of the debates. We live in a time in which most people already have their minds made up and can’t be swayed by anything. If Donald Trump climbs up on the moderator table, drops his pants and defecates right there, his supporters will cheer.
The country is locked into two ideological camps. People are going to tune in tomorrow night largely to cheer for their side, much like a sports contest. They’ll boo if their candidate gets a tough question, in the same way sports fans boo every call against their own team. Most of the few who don’t tune in to cheer or boo will just be watching to see if a train wreck occurs.
Rah-rahs and gawkers. That’s the American electorate. We have met the enemy, and it is us.
Tonight’s Republican debate was an embarrassing spectacle. It made me embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated for my country. I think it shames America before the world that so many Americans can support people who behave so childishly. Anyone who could vote for a candidate who engages in schoolyard taunts on a presidential debate stage — and here I’m talking specifically about Donald Trump and secondarily Marco Rubio — has no respect for the presidency or America’s image before the world community. If you can watch Trump allude to the size of his penis tonight and think he should be our nation’s face to the world, I really don’t even know what to say to that.
I don’t agree with Ted Cruz on anything and would hope he never becomes president. But he generally behaved like an adult tonight, for which I will give him grudging credit. It is sad that merely not acting like a child deserves special mention.
Regarding John Kasich, I don’t agree with him on very much either, but he’s the only candidate on that stage who wouldn’t cause me to seriously consider emigrating if he became president. He at least behaved with the dignity and respect I would consider minimal requirements to lead a nation.
As to who won and who lost, hell, who can say? I joked on Twitter tonight that nothing could sway Trump’s followers and that if he walked over and set Kasich on fire, they’d cheer. I might have been half-joking on that one. Nothing has hurt him so far. Tonight was certainly his lowest, worst and most disgusting performance, but I’m not convinced it’ll cost him any support.
Cruz didn’t do anything to hurt himself and probably remains the leading challenger to Trump.
I thought Kasich was the most presidential and he handled himself well, but he’s so far behind, I don’t know how much good it will do him. I expect he probably will at least win Ohio in 12 days, which might keep him alive, and right now, that’s the name of the game.
Rubio diminishes himself every day, and tonight was no exception. I don’t think he helped himself at all, and I expect he’ll continue to swoon. I doubt he takes Florida in 12 days.
I’m not sure there were any winners tonight, but I can say without any doubt whatsoever that America lost.
The conventional wisdom will tell you that Marco Rubio won tonight’s debate and turned this campaign around. It’s wishful thinking. Fundamentally, nothing happened here tonight that we haven’t seen many times before during this campaign season. Donald Trump got hit hard. That’s happened before, and he’s always gained in the polls.
Nothing that happened tonight changed the dynamics or the trajectory of the race. As long as there are more than two candidates, Trump will continue to prevail with pluralities from state to state. In a year in which Republican voters hate the establishment, the fact that Rubio has nearly consolidated the establishment means little.
So Rubio may have won the debate on points, but in terms of the direction of the race, nothing has changed. Trump is winning and is likely to continue winning.
But here’s tonight’s big loser: Ted Cruz. He was a nonentity in tonight’s debate. He didn’t help his cause at all. That’s actually bad for Rubio, who reportedly is counting on a strategy of getting to the convention with no candidate having a majority of delegates, thereby creating a brokered convention. For that to happen (and it’s highly unlikely), he needs Cruz to stay in the race, because a good number of Cruz’s supporters are much likelier to go to Trump than to Rubio.
John Kasich was also a loser tonight. He’s trying to be the calm, rational, sensible candidate, which is not what this year’s Republican electorate wants. He’s not going to get anywhere throwing broccoli to the wolves.
And Ben Carson remained a nonentity. His whining about speaking time was pathetic. He’s going nowhere, and everybody seems to understand this but Carson himself.
Bottom line: tonight’s debate didn’t change anything. Trump’s still in the lead and poised to pull a near-sweep on Super Tuesday.
Hillary Clinton went nuclear on Bernie Sanders at the end of tonight’s debate when she brought up his interview with Thom Hartmann in which Sanders called President Obama “weak” and “disappointing” and called for a primary challenger to the president in 2012. Despite Sanders aide Tad Devine’s factually challenged insistence on Hardball With Chris Matthews that Sanders never called the president weak, here’s the videotape:
Sanders’ response that Senators have the right to be critical of the president was weak tea. Of course Senators have the right to differ with the president, but his extremely biting, personal comments about the president being “weak” and “disappointing” will undoubtedly be a sore spot with Obama supporters.
Clearly, Clinton is going after Sanders on these comments in order to rile and engage President Obama’s supporters heading into the Nevada caucuses and South Carolina primary. She followed up with an amazingly strong closing statement in which she made the point that she was not a single-issue candidate. More importantly, she broke out of what seemed to be a very managed, handled performance at times and exuded authenticity and passion.
Sanders had some good moments, and his very intelligent disquisition on American interventionism was probably his best foreign policy moment ever. But Clinton blew him out of the water at the end. Her play here may have been obvious, but it was effective.