Thursday’s debate is over –
and who won, lost or tied is a matter that virtually no one has an objective view on, certainly not the pundits on cable, the alphabets or in the legacy press. Neither do I, and I won’t waste your time pretending otherwise.
The problem is defining what it means to have “won” a debate. Does it mean the candidate was able to paste over the negatives in their record or push a policy agenda that is unpopular? Does it mean that the Presidential hopeful relented and told the unvarnished truth? Telling the unvarnished truth is something that happens with politicians as frequently as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, so we can throw that out. Sorry, Cubbie fans.
Did Jeb Bush convince potential voters that he really is the guy they want? No. In fact, what was most notable was the argument between Bush and Marco Rubio as to which was the most committed to give illegals a path to citizenship. Rubio didn’t want to win that argument, but it seemed like Bush wanted to smear some of his smelly grease on the subject onto Rubio. I could be wrong, but I have the feeling that once Bush is genuinely convinced that he is circling the drain, he will try to pull his erstwhile apprentice down with him.
Does winning a debate mean you suddenly shoot up like a rocket in the polls? Maybe in the early debates if you make a indelible impression, but not at this stage of the game. Network commentators talk about the style points of the also rans, but no one seriously believes that even a good showing is going to close the gap between the rest of the pack and those in the top three slots.
Debates are now a test of the front runners’ ability to not shoot themselves in the foot. Here, that means that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, in Trump’s refreshing absence, needed to hold ground and not commit a fatal blunder.
Rubio got better reviews from political hacks on style points, but his substance is still a hard sell with much of the GOP base.
Ted Cruz opened strong and seemed to be steaming forward to an unassailable performance with this.
“Secondly, let me say, I am a maniac, and everyone on the stage is stupid, fat and ugly. And Ben [Carson], you’re a horrible surgeon. Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way…”
And all would have been fine, had Ted not gone off message and taken issue with the line of questioning put forth by such as Chris Matthews; complaining that the moderators were setting him up for attacks from the other participants. It was not well received by the audience, to say the least. Ted did pull out of the nosedive as the debate progressed, but this gave the mass media a truncheon with which to pummel him with. And pummel him they did.
CNN has primped and preened and fluffed up Donald Trump’s campaign and has been savaging Cruz. And, as Erick Erickson notes:
But as predictable as the sun coming up, the Republican leaning pundit class in Washington, in what appeared to be an extremely well orchestrated move, rushed to television sets everywhere to tell anyone who would listen that Ted Cruz did terrible. He came across as unlikeable. He came across as too hostile. He came across as unsure of his footing. He came across as calculated, which is a word used in television ads against Cruz and also used by Republican leaning pundits who suck off the Washington teet.
Realistically however, a few things should be also be put in proper perspective. Everyone has acknowledged that Trump, having dodged the debate (as he dodged the Vietnam draft), made Ted Cruz the focal point of aggression. Comes with the territory. Cruz is an excellent debater which all in favor or opposed agree, but he’s not a robot. Even someone with his natural composure is dealing with an enormous amount of stress in a campaign like this, and Ted showed that he puts on his pants in the morning just like the rest of us mortals do.
Something tells me that Iowa voters are not going to be swayed by a few inevitable missteps in one debate – certainly not Cruz voters who already have come to understand what he is about.
To hear it from the likes of the CNN sniping political analysts, you would have thought Ted crashed and burned. Actually, he did recover from the Chris Wallace dust up, emerged as the victor in the engagement with Marco Rubio on immigration, and acquitted himself very well on Obamacare and why keeping his promises to the citizens of Texas has earned him enemies in Washington. And for all of those who stayed put on Fox News for the “Kelly File”, Megyn Kelly, unprompted and voluntarily admitted that Ted Cruz has been consistent on the matter of amnesty.
I was noticing some talking head babbling about Trump having gotten the Lion’s share of social media buzz after the debate – according to statistics gathered by the debate partner, Google. I accept that as fact.
Here’s the problem though. The simplistic narrative that was being advanced without any real granular data – is that this somehow indicates that Trump benefited from not attending the debate. We know that is not the case – I’ll get to that in a minute. Google’s metrics only indicate searches and social media keyword references, such as his name or hashtags including the name Trump. What it doesn’t demonstrate is the context of the mention or search. The hashtag could be #TrumpsTheMan or it could be #TrumpSucks. The statistics are agnostic as to favorable or unfavorable.
Anecdotally for what it is worth, I saw a lot of references to Trump chickening out of the debate and to him using Veterans for political cover. There was also quite a bit of discussion on Trump surrounding himself with the two bottom-feeders from the Fox undercard debate. Further, although Trump received about 130,000 Twitter ‘mentions’, or 36% of the traffic, that number is down significantly from the previous debate – 40,000 less. That trend does not affirm the Trump ‘expanding universe’ meme.
Additionally signaling the likelihood that Trump is now attracting more negative attention is the fact that Gallup has determined that Trump has a net favorability rating among GOP voters of 24 percent! That’s right, 24 percent. But more importantly, his unfavorable ratings are 39% – by and far the highest of any GOP candidate. Ted Cruz, in comparison, is at the top of the Gallup list, with a net favorability rating of 45%.
Even worse, Trump’s net unfavorable rating among independents is –27% – that is, 27% more independents dislike than like him. No candidate since 1980 has had worse unfavorables than Trump – as shown in this graphic compiled by Nate Silver’s election review site, FiveThirtyEight.
What does this tell us? It tells us that there are two campaigns taking place. One campaign is being conducted by the corporate media, intent on catapulting Trump into the nomination and the general election against whichever Democrat emerges. This is so that no matter what, America gets more big government and more compromise benefiting the Washington / Wall Street Axis.
The other campaign is the real one, decided not by political polls inflated by Trump’s celebrity status, but by actual voters who are taking a good, hard look at Donald Trump’s clown act, however entertaining it might be, and trying to picture him sitting in the Oval Office. It also suggests that Trump is un-electable, which his extraordinarily high Hillary level unfavorable numbers underline.
There was another indicator of a soft Trump underbelly. It was the fact that Trump did not take viewers away from the Fox News debate to the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test he conducted down the street. Fox News’ metrics found quite the opposite:
“Taking place in Des Moines, Iowa, the debate featured the top ranked candidates in their last contest before the Iowa Caucus. The debate beat CNN and MSNBC combined in both total viewers and key demo which aired the Donald Trump rally from 9:15-10:15PM/ET. Additionally, the debate topped the previous GOP debate by 13% in total viewers and 17% in the demo.”
Stay the course Senator Cruz and you Ted Cruz supporters. There are strong indications that Trump is in reality, only an ignorant but booming voice amplified by the media – and when the curtain is drawn back, merely the Wizard Of Oz.