Watching the tenth GOP debate in South Carolina on Saturday, February 13, 2016, seems to have attracted many American sweethearts.
Ratings figures are not out yet, but with the Donald in top spot nationally, it was too good to miss — even on Valentine’s Day weekend.
Viewers were treated to a free-for-all as the top candidates talked over each other. Ben Carson continued his quiet presence, leading many to ask why he was there in the first place. John Kasich (pron. ‘Kay-sik’) declined to engage in a slanging match.
The big news of the day was the sudden demise of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, who died on a resort ranch in Texas. He had attended a get-together there the night before. When he did not show up for breakfast the next morning, his friends asked a ranch employee to check on him. He died of apparent natural causes.
The debate opened with discussion of a possible replacement for Scalia. Trump was the first candidate asked to comment. He said that Obama was likely to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice and advised Mitch McConnell and the Senate to oppose an appointment:
It’s called delay, delay, delay.
In other highlights, Jeb Bush lauded his mother, saying she was the strongest woman he knew, to which Donald Trump replied:
She should be running.
Interestingly, after the debate ended, Bush patted Cruz on the shoulder, as if to say, ‘Well done’. Hmm …
Marco Rubio accused Ted Cruz of not being able to speak Spanish. Cruz replied in Spanish, asking him if he wanted to continue the debate en Español.
Once again, Trump got booed, leaving viewers suspecting the Republican establishment was in the audience.
When the top candidates attacked Trump, he gave as good as he got. He said that Cruz had no endorsements from his peers because he is a ‘nasty guy’.
CBS, which televised the debate, made this observation:
When he did talk about policy, Trump at times sounded more like a Democrat than a Republican, and he unapologetically acknowledged he doesn’t always see eye to eye with the GOP.
“I also feel I’m a common-sense conservative, because some of the views I don’t agree with,” Trump said. “And I think a lot of people agree with me, obviously, based on what’s happening.”
The former Democrat who switched to the Republican party several years ago is, in reality, a centrist. Sure, he’s made bold, brash statements about immigration, but he said during the debate that would bring overseas jobs back to the United States. For years, he has been saying he would levy a tax on overseas imports to the US. Ultimately, that tax, paid by the company in question, would be passed on to the American consumer. This week Carrier laid off 1,400 workers in Indiana as it moves a plant to Mexico. Carrier can pay Mexican workers $6 an hour versus $23 for their unionised workers.
Trump’s crossover appeal is no doubt what keeps him at the top of the polls. Furthermore, as he is not a politician but a proven business success overall, despite his bankruptcies, people trust him to rebuild America.
During the debate, Trump criticised George ‘W’ Bush’s handling of 9/11. That’s when he was booed. Online comment from viewers varied. A number supported Trump’s statements but just as many said they were going off him. Bush left office in 2009 with an enviable approval rating and still has loyal admirers, even though that does not translate into support for brother Jeb.
We’ll see what effect the debate has as the South Carolina and Nevada primaries take place over the coming days.
However, the post-debate polling shows that the viewing audience thought that Trump won the debate handily.
Going forward, he has three issues to address which might return to bite him.
First, Trump’s Vietnam deferments and public criticism of John McCain in this regard need explaining and adjustment. The Telegraph has a full report on Trump’s bone spurs in his heels which prevented him from serving his country. He says he feels guilty about it and fully supports the military. However, he does need to stop mentioning that McCain, a POW for five years, is not a hero. He should leave McCain out entirely and focus instead on what he will do for veterans, especially the VA hospitals which have been in a parlous state for decades. Will Trump’s blunt opinions matter to ex-military? The Telegraph spoke with Tom Smith, 67, who served in Vietnam. Smith said he bore no grudge against Trump for not serving and was thinking about voting for him. Another South Carolina resident, Jimmy Lee Wallace, also went to Vietnam and said he was not influenced by Republican candidates’ pledges to support the military. To him, it was all part of campaigning and would amount to little more in reality.
Secondly, Trump’s response to fellow candidates’ attacks could harm him. Some voters say, ‘Let Trump be Trump’. Others are tired of his bloviating. Thus far, his style seems to have served him well. However, primaries in socially conservative states are approaching, and, as I’ve said before, replacing some of the brashness with presidential gravitas would not go amiss. Incidentally, Real Clear Politics has the latest poll figures as of February 14. Trump is still comfortably in the lead.
Along with the second issue goes the third: foul language. During the debate, Trump accused Bush of threatening to moon people this week, which Bush vehemently denied. Trump insisted it happened, and called Bush’s complaints about his use of profanity hypocritical. CBS reports:
“He said about language — my language,” Trump said. “Two days ago, he said he would take his pants off and moon everybody. And that’s fine – nobody reports that. He gets up and says that. And then he tells me that ‘oh my language was a little bit rough.'” …
What Trump was referring to was a recent Boston Globe interview where Bush complained about his lack of coverage from media outlets.
“I could drop my pants,” Bush told the Boston Globe in early February. “Moon the whole crowd. Everybody would be aghast, except the press guys would never notice.”
He was right. They didn’t notice that part of the interview. But they all notice Trump’s profanity. It seems the Donald has now taken this to heart. CBS tells us:
“I will not do it at all,” Trump said on the debate stage in Greenville, South Carolina. “Because if I say a word that’s a little bit off-color, it ends up being a headline. I will not do it again.”
Now is the time for Trump to start sounding like the leader many hope he would be if elected in November.
Those interested in the full content of the debate can avail themselves of the New York Times transcript.
In the coming days, Trump needs to refer to this debate as an example of our broken system, from the biased crowd to the arguing that gets us nowhere. And he needs to stick to his promise to run a positive campaign, which will provide a positive contrast to this painful debate. He also needs to boost his ad spending in SC and NV. Finally, he needs to make these two points over and over. First, that this contest is contentious because America is floundering. There’s a sense of desperation in the air, which is reflected in the contest. Second, the other reason it’s so contentious is that for once there is a candidate who is promising something other than business as usual, so the entire political applecart is in danger of being demolished.
Meanwhile, in related news, yesterday, Washington and Lee University in Virginia held its notable mock GOP convention in which Donald Trump won more than twice as many delegates as Ted Cruz, who came in second. The New York Times explains:
For a political culture awash with polls and punditry, the mock convention at Washington and Lee University offers one of the most meticulous and intriguing predictions of its kind, having successfully forecast the nominee of the party not in the White House in 19 of 25 attempts, including all but two since 1948.
Let’s hope the students are right in 2016.