Gloves Come Off Against Trump In Tenth Republican Debate, But Is It Too Little, Too Late?

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz landed some punches on Donald Trump last night, but it's doubtful that they changed the nature of the race.

Tenth Republican Debate Rubio Trump Cruz

The remaining Republican candidates for President met on a debate stage for the tenth time last night and, perhaps for the first time, Donald Trump took serious fire from his opponents as both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio aimed their attacks at him rather than each other. After eight months though, the question whether it was too little, too late:

Senator Marco Rubio, alarmed by Donald J. Trump’s ascendancy and worried that his presidential chances were slipping away, unleashed a barrage of attacks on the real estate mogul’s business ethics, hiring practices and financial achievements in Thursday’s debate, forcefully delivering the onslaught that Republican leaders had desperately awaited.

In a series of acid exchanges, a newly pugnacious Mr. Rubio, long mocked for a robotic and restrained style, interrupted Mr. Trump, quizzed him, impersonated him, shouted over him and left him looking unsettled. It was an unfamiliar reversal of roles for the front-runner, who found himself so frequently the target of assaults from Mr. Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz that he complained they must have been a ploy for better television ratings.

From the opening moments of the debate, Mr. Rubio pounced. Deploying his own up-by-the-bootstraps biography, the Florida senator assailed Mr. Trump for hiring hundreds of foreign workers at his tony resort in Florida and passing over Americans who had applied for the same jobs

“My mom was a maid in a hotel,” Mr. Rubio said. “And instead of hiring an American like her, you’ve brought over 1,000 people from all over the world to fill in those jobs instead.”

Moments later, Mr. Rubio moved to cast Mr. Trump as a huckster who outsourced the manufacturing of the clothing that bears his name to countries like Mexico and China even as he promised to wage a trade war against those countries.

When Mr. Trump tried to protest, Mr. Rubio interrupted right back.

“Make them in America!” he demanded.

The acerbic and urgent tenor of the exchanges reflected the panicked state of a Republican field determined to halt Mr. Trump, whose crudely freewheeling style, abundant self-assuredness and durable popularity have produced three consecutive early-state victories that threaten to put the nomination out of reach for his two biggest rivals, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz.

The two-hour rumpus frequently devolved into unmediated bouts of shouting, name-calling and pleas to the moderators for chances to respond to the latest insult.

“This guy’s a choke artist,” Mr. Trump declared, pointing to Mr. Rubio. “This guy’s a liar,” he said, swiveling toward Mr. Cruz.

The timing of Thursday’s debate in Houston, days before 595 delegates are awarded in voting across the country on March 1, made it among the most anticipated and consequential debates of the Republican campaign season and the first to feature a shrunken field of five candidates.

After resounding defeats at the hands of Mr. Trump in the past two primaries, both Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz walked onto the stage confronting treacherous paths ahead and a pressing dilemma: whether to keep trying to destroy each other, their comfort zone in past debates, or to aim their fire at Mr. Trump.

They chose war with Mr. Trump. But amid the relentless back and forth, a question hovered: Was it too late?

It did not seem so, as Mr. Trump’s usual bravado gave way to a less nimble performance. After a tense exchange with Mr. Cruz over the depth of their conservatism and fidelity to the Constitution, Mr. Trump awkwardly asked for an apology.

Mr. Cruz refused, instead seizing on Mr. Trump’s values.

“Donald, I will not apologize for one minute for defending the Constitution,” he said.

The audience broke into applause.

Given the intractability of Mr. Trump’s support and the cruel mathematics of capturing the nomination, it was unclear whether his shakiness in the debate would blunt his momentum, especially with his impressive lead in several key states that will vote over the next few days.

But for a single night, it seemed, the dynamic among the candidates shifted, not only because Mr. Trump appeared off-balance at times, but because his rivals seemed looser, more comfortable and even delighted to take him on. Mr. Rubio smiled as he issued biting dissections of the less savory chapters of Mr. Trump’s business history and even questioned the very essence of Mr. Trump’s success story, saying he was simply the heir to a vast fortune.

“If he hadn’t inherited $200 million, you know where Donald Trump would be right now? Selling watches in Manhattan?” Mr. Rubio said, as the audience erupted in laughter.

“That is so wrong,” Mr. Trump said, plaintively.

When, at another point, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Rubio did not know “anything about business,” the senator responded: “I don’t know anything about bankrupting four companies,” an allusion to Mr. Trump’s liberal use of bankruptcy protections over the years.

For Mr. Rubio, the night seemed to be something of a revival, allowing him to turn the most painful moment of his campaign into an effective tactic against Mr. Trump. Earlier this month, he repeated himself four times in a disastrous debate-night run-in with Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. On Thursday night, as Mr. Trump gave only a vague description of his health care proposals, Mr. Rubio gave him the Christie treatment. “What’s your plan?” he taunted.

When Mr. Trump spoke repeatedly about increasing competition among states — “You’ll have many, they’ll compete, and it’ll be a beautiful thing” — Mr. Rubio observed, “Now he’s repeating himself,” to raucous applause.

Mr. Trump tried to regain control, saying: “Talk about repeating. I watched him repeat himself five times four weeks ago.”

But it was Mr. Rubio who had the last word.

“I saw you repeat yourself five times five seconds ago,” he zinged, laughing.

Mr. Rubio’s performance appeared to be pitched most directly at skeptical party elites and donors, who are banking on him as an alternative to Mr. Trump and have grown increasingly impatient watching his sometimes passive performances. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, on the other hand, seemed to be making a broader appeal to the hearts of Republican and independent voters as he heaped praise on former President George Bush, who sat in the audience with his wife, Barbara Bush, by his side.

Mr. Kasich infused his message with sympathy for the downtrodden and overlooked, and offered a surprising olive branch to gay voters, saying he was uncomfortable with restrictions, advocated by conservatives, that would allow businesses to deny service to same-sex couples who wish to wed.

“Today, I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay, and tomorrow, maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced,” Mr. Kasich said. “I mean, if you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce. That’s my view.”

Mr. Kasich, who faces pressure to quit the race to clear a path for either Mr. Cruz or Mr. Rubio, showed no signs of relenting as he appealed to the party’s sense of civility and fondly recalled Mr. Bush’s collaboration with President Ronald Reagan on immigration in the 1980s. “It was,” he said, “a time when things worked.”

Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon whose once-promising candidacy has fizzled, leaving him on the far edges of the campaign and the debate stage, used his rare moment in the spotlight on Thursday to complain once again about how little attention he was receiving. “I’m going to whine,” he said languorously, scolding a moderator, Hugh Hewitt, for not asking him about subjects ranging from Israel to taxes.

The Washington Post has more:

A feistier Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida emerged on the debate stage here Thursday night, taking the fight for the GOP nomination directly to front-runner Donald Trump and attacking him as a hypocrite on the immigration issue that has fueled Trump’s remarkable political rise.

Sparring between the two dominated the debate, turning the other three candidates on the stage into bystanders for much of the evening.

Rubio’s aggressive and bold move came at an urgent moment in the Republican presidential race. Trump has won three state contests in a row, building momentum that could make him unstoppable as the campaign moves from a series of single-state skirmishes to a national battlefield in next week’s Super Tuesday contests.

Many consider Rubio the Republican establishment’s best — and possibly last — hope to prevent Trump from becoming the party’s standard-bearer.

His robust performance stood in contrast to his robotic, scripted demeanor at an earlier debate in New Hampshire, which Rubio himself has blamed for his poor showing there. Rubio has also been accumulating what could be a critical mass of endorsements and support from Republican donors and elected officials.

Rubio mocked Trump’s often-repeated claim that he is responsible for elevating the immigration issue and putting it onto the front line of the campaign. The Florida senator accused the billionaire real estate developer of hiring foreign labor over Americans, noting that Trump was sued and fined for underpaying undocumented Polish workers when he was building his Trump Tower in the 1980s.

“You’re only person on this stage that has ever been fined for hiring people to work on your projects illegally,” Rubio said.

“I’m the only one on the stage that’s hired people. You haven’t hired anybody,” Trump retorted. “You haven’t hired one person, you liar.”

At some points, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is also seeking to ascend as Trump’s primary foe, joined Rubio in a sort of tag team. Cruz noted that he had battled a 2013 effort supported by Rubio to pass immigration reform and give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

“Where was Donald? He was firing Dennis Rodman on ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ ” Cruz said, mocking Trump’s long career in reality television. He then said Trump had donated to many of the reform bill’s sponsors: “When you’re funding open-border politicians, you shouldn’t be surprised when they fight for open borders.”

Casting Trump as insufficiently conservative, Cruz said the last person that those on the right should want in the White House is a businessman who is legendary for dealmaking.

“He is promising if he’s elected he will go and cut deals in Washington. And he’s right. He has supported — he has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats. Anyone who really cared about illegal immigration wouldn’t be hiring illegal immigrants,” Cruz said.

Trump lashed out at Cruz, noting his reputation as the least-liked member of the U.S. Senate.

“You get along with nobody,” Trump said to Cruz. “You don’t have the endorsement of one Republican senator and you work with these people. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

As the two senators persisted with their barbs, Trump resorted to name-calling. “This guy is a choke artist, and this guy is a liar,” he said of Rubio and Cruz, respectively. At another point, he called Cruz a “basket case.”

The debate — held at the University of Houston and sponsored by CNN, Telemundo and Salem Radio Network — was the 10th for the Republicans this election cycle. It was also the first since former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who early on had been considered the presumptive front-runner, bowed out of the contest.

That left only five contenders on the stage for the final faceoff before 11 state contests next Tuesday. A total of 595 delegates — nearly half the total needed to get the nomination — will be up for grabs.

The Super Tuesday balloting will also mark the moment at which the presidential campaign goes national. While many of the states that will be voting are in the deep-red South, the contests will stretch across the map.

Texas, with 155 delegates, is the biggest prize of all. A win here is most critical for Cruz, who has been leading in most public polls and who will find it difficult to go forward if he is defeated in his home state.

Trump taunted him by citing one recent poll: “I’m tied in Texas, which I shouldn’t be.”

When Cruz replied that polls also show Trump losing to likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Trump fired back: “If I can’t beat her, you’re really going to get killed.”

“Keep fighting. Keep swinging for the fences,” Trump added, dismissively.

If nothing else, this debate was different from all the others to the extent that there were aggressive attacks against Donald Trump that didn’t fizzle out after one or two minutes, but it’s not at all clear that any of it is going to matter. For one thing, most of the attacks on Trump dealt with matters that, in one way or another, have been covered in the media several times since Trump entered the race last June and, in some cases, before he was even a candidate for President. To that degree, one could argue that these attacks, such as the fact that the clothing line that bears Trump’s name was made overseas or the fact that four of the entities that have borne his name over the years have filed for protection under the bankruptcy code, are already “baked into the cake” when it comes to public opinion about Donald Trump. Some of the other attacks, such as the allegations regarding “Trump University” or the fact that some of Trump’s businesses have hired foreign workers brought to the United States via work visas, are obviously meant to point out Trump’s hypocrisy on issues such as immigration, but it occurs to me that these hits are likely to be ineffective to the extent Trump can dismiss them with the largely accurate response that he was working within the system as it exists, and he wants to change the system. Similarly, when candidates like Rubio and Cruz mention, for what seems like the thousandth time, that he has donated to Democrats in the past, the fact that he dismisses it as the cost of having to do business in cities such as New York and Chicago is something that seems to blunt the attacks. To that extent, then, the attacks against Trump that center on his business record don’t seem like they’re going to have much of an impact.

Rubio and Cruz were arguably more effective in attacking Trump on policy grounds, but even there it’s unclear that it’s going to matter in the end. The fact that Donald Trump has taken positions in the past, or even during the course of this campaign, that deviate from conservative orthodoxy, or that he hasn’t offered any detailed plans for how he’s going to achieve what he promises is something that everyone who has been following the race knows by now. Trump’s supporters obviously don’t care about it, and those that do care about are currently lined up behind other candidates. If this were August or September of last year and Rubio, Cruz, or someone else were mounting the same aggressive attack that they did last night then perhaps it might make a difference. At this point in the race, with Trump having won three out of the first four contests of 2016 and placed a strong second in the fourth, and polls showing him leading in a majority of Super Tuesday states, it’s arguably too little, too late. This would seem to be especially true since, when one watches the video clips of the most argumentative parts of last night’s proceedings, both Cruz and Rubio come across as shrill and childish. Additionally, the fact that several of these exchanges basically consisted of all three candidates yelling at each other it seems unlikely that voters who haven’t already made up their minds are going to be very impressed. Since these clips, rather than the full debate, are how most people are likely going to see the debate it seems unlikely that any of these three men is going to come across very well. To the extent that helps anyone, it helps the frontrunner.

Josh Marshall puts it this way:

Let’s state the point clearly: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz failed utterly to put a dent in Donald Trump or his seemingly clear path to the Republican nomination. In their defense, it was a huge challenge. If Trump does as well on Tuesday as the current polls suggest, he will likely be unstoppable. Not necessarily because the numbers will make him inevitable but because the pageantry of winning will continue to elevate Trump and overwhelm Rubio and Cruz. To prevent that, one or the other needed to land a devastating blow – something on the level of what Chris Christie did to Rubio before New Hampshire. Frankly, it needed to be even worse. They didn’t come close.

This isn’t to say they didn’t land some punches. Early in the debate Rubio surfaced a number of scandals that could potentially be very damaging to Trump. I think the “Trump University” scam is ultimately the most damning – a clownishly crooked scam that exploited people who didn’t have a lot of money but bet it all on Trump’s razzmatazz. He also landed some hits on Trump’s inability to say anything specific about his health care plans other than allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines – a tired nostrum the only practical effect of which is to end all regulation of health care insurance and make the system wildly more unfair than it was before. Still, I don’t think any of these attacks mattered much. The only thing to emerge from the debate which I think could possibly hurt Trump was entirely self-inflicted: his announcement that he can’t release his tax returns because he’s in the midst of a multi-year IRS audit – a point which is both nonsensical on its face and highly problematic from any politician operating in the gravity universe. I think there was little follow-up from the moderators because they were simply gobsmacked by what Trump was saying and couldn’t think of how to respond.

But again, with the possible exception of the audit thing, I don’t think much of it matters at all. The two senators had an almost impossible task – landing a decisive blow against a player who has been entirely impervious to decisive blows and is simply a better debater than either of them. The need to land that decisive blow created a series of visuals, set pieces and mini-dramas in which they gave their absolute all to take him down and inevitably failed. On balance, that made them look small and confirmed the pervasive impression of his strength and their weakness. They’re being crushed by a guy who by any normal political calculus is a joke.

Other post-debate analysis is more kind to Rubio and Cruz, and far less kind to Trump, but it’s likely that it’s not going to matter even if that assessment proves to be the one that takes hold with the public. Earlier this month, Donald Trump had what pretty much everyone agreed was a “bad debate” a week before the South Carolina Primary in which his attacks on George W. Bush were seen as having crossed a line that South Carolina voters allegedly wouldn’t accept. As it turned out, Trump ended up exceeding his polling expectations in the Palmetto State, and followed that up with an even bigger win in Nevada. Given that, the odds that this debate will have a real impact on the race seem slim at best. As I said, if these aggressiveness against Trump had come earlier in the election cycle, it’s possible that the history of the 2016 campaign may have unfolded differently. Bringing those attacks now, though, seems like it’s likely to be too little, too late and that Trump’s momentum is unlikely to be blunted. Whether that assessment is correct is something we’ll have to wait until Tuesday night to know for sure.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    I love watching these grifter motherf**kers rip into each other.. :))

  2. Hal_10000 says:

    This is what they should have been doing for months. As I argued on my blog, the GOP played this very poorly. They didn’t attack Trump early and often enough. Then they attacked each other because they wanted to vie for being not-Trump, assuming he would just collapse on his own. It may too little, too late, but at least Rubio and Cruz finally tried.

    I agree with you that the Trump University thing is going to be a big deal. One of the big issues right now is student loan debt and especially debt connected with sham schools. I wonder how much student loan debt was incurred going to Trump’s baloney “university”. Trump also described Qadaffi as being “anti-terrorist”. I agree that we shouldn’t have toppled him, but I think the families of the Lockerbie victims might disagree with that characterization. If the Democrats aren’t fools (an iffy proposition) they will play that to the hilt.

    And frankly, I suspect that’s not even a fraction of the dirt the Democrats have on Trump.

    Bill James had a great post the other day where he argued that Trump can win a primary because it’s easy to fool 10-15% of the public into supporting you (the approximately percentage of the general public that Trump is getting right now). Getting 50% is way harder. I hope he’s right. I’ve opposed Presidents in the past, sometimes vehemently. But this is the first time I’ve seen a Presidential candidate who I think is dangerous.

  3. EddieInCA says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I agree with you, but Trump seems to have locked up the 30-40% of the GOP Primary electorate. And they chose him a long time ago, and their support isn’t wavering. So I doubt there is going to be a 20 point swing in the Super Tuesday polls in four days.

    Will it tighten? Probably. But will Trump win 13 or 14 states on Tuesday? Probably. What state does Rubio win? Florida? That’s not until 26 states have already voted. And the GOP has a rule that you cannot be the nominee unless you win 8 states. Which 8 states do Cruz or Rubio win? Neither is dropping out. Which leaves Trump to gain the plurality each time with 30%-40% and roll to the nomination.

  4. Tillman says:

    Rubio and Cruz were arguably more effective in attacking Trump on policy grounds, but even there it’s unclear that it’s going to matter in the end.

    Well, “policy” and “Republican debate” don’t commingle. Hell, Kasich the Reasonable Republican™ wanted to restart the Korean War. When a movement’s spent the better part of twenty-five years using willful denial of reality in its discourse, the hope reality will prevent a wily charlatan from taking over is such an absurd degree of denial.

    You’ve already hit on it by mentioning multiple times that Trump is saying things Republican voters want to hear (Bouie at Slate says it’s how he’s saying it, but it’s a distinction without a difference to me). For whatever reason, the beltway media remains transfixed by this idea that Trump is an impossibility, and that any show of force like last night will dislodge him from his perch. I’m bemused that they haven’t gotten a handle on this race yet. Are they that cloistered up in DC?

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    One obvious thing that came out of this debate is that Dr Carson should drop out before he further embarrasses himself.
    I agree that Trump had a bad night but that it probably won’t make much difference. I read an article yesterday, sorry can’t find it, that in spite of all the money the Republican candidates had they have spent none of it on opposition research. Trump should worry about the general election because the Democrats have been doing a lot of opposition research on Trump for over 8 months.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    I find myself unable to estimate the effect. On the one hand, Super Tuesday is Tuesday. In the normal course of things too soon for any large move. But Trump’s whole appeal is “tough”. If Rubio was seen as beating the alpha dog last night, he could pick up the alpha dog’s followers overnight. Going to be interesting. But boy howdy it’s hard to see Rubio as the alpha dog.

    Saw a claim last night that the Clinton people have been doing oppo research on Trump and the rival GOPs haven’t used 20% of what the Clinton camp has on him. Everything I’ve heard from last night has been in published news stories. However, some of the stories were in the last few days. Wonder if they got leaked by Rubio’s or Cruz’s oppo people.

  7. EddieInCA says:

    These are the upcoming GOP Primaries/Caucuses before Florida. Trump is leading in almost all of them by substantial margins. Which of these states can Rubio win? If you look at the polling averages for each state… He won’t win any of them. I fact, I don’t see 8 states Rubio or Cruz can win.

    Iowa
    New Hampshire
    South Carolina
    Nevada
    Alabama
    Alaska
    Arkansas
    Georgia
    Massachusetts
    Minnesota
    Oklahoma
    Tennessee
    Texas
    Vermont
    Virginia
    Kansas
    Kentucky
    Louisiana
    Maine
    Puerto Rico
    Hawaii
    Idaho
    Michigan
    Mississippi
    District of Columbia

  8. Jeron says:

    It would be unimaginable for many that Democrats could win this election cycle. On the GOP’s defense they have been breaking turnout records which elevates the names of the top 3 as “serious” options for future elections, based just on the hundreds of thousands of votes that each one of them has been getting. Although many of the votes are just anybody-but-Trump consolation votes. Based just on turnout alone, the GOP can be proud of having accomplished a major democratic milestone. Even if the candidates may not deserve all of that effort.

    It seems that many in the GOP have started to accept the loss so long as they can be united in opposition to whomever wins it. That tends to bode well for midterm elections if anything. 🙂 And the GOP could continue to rule at the states level instead.

  9. Hal_10000 says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I do know some Trump supporters. They are obsessed with the idea of having a President who is “not a politician”. So no matter what Trump says or does, they will be happy with him because he’s still not a politician.

    The problem is that in politics you need someone who’s … a politician. It doesn’t function with someone who has an autocratic mentality of “just do it; I’m the boss”.

  10. Mu says:

    The question is really, how many of the NASCAR crowd are watching the debate. And of those that do, how many are going say it’s just the last hurrah of the establishment, they’ve given up on winning themselves, now it’s everyone “prevent Trump”. As for the attacks, they seem to me to be “you’re not living what you preach”, what’s much easier to deflect than “what you preach is wrong” what they don’t dare to say.

  11. SenyorDave says:

    @Tillman: I’m bemused that they haven’t gotten a handle on this race yet. Are they that cloistered up in DC?

    I think a lot of them know, but the whole horse race thing is just so strongly ingrained that they can’t let it go. I totally agree with your point on policy, the Republican debates are all about personality, style, anything but policy. Besides Trump’s policies aren’t much worse than most of the other candidates, and Trump’s most odious policies are in alignment with the base.

    My cause for optimism is that the general election debates actually do tend to be about policy, and hopefully it will be obvious to most people how misinformed Trump is about Policy. Unfortunately, IMO we a recession or bad domestic terror attack away from President Trump.

  12. humanoid.panda says:

    @Hal_10000:

    agree with you that the Trump University thing is going to be a big deal. One of the big issues right now is student loan debt and especially debt connected with sham schools. I wonder how much student loan debt was incurred going to Trump’s baloney “university”

    Since it wasn’t credentialed, “students” at “Trump university” were not eligible for student loans. Which means many of them took out credit card debt and god knows what else to pay for the scam..

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @SenyorDave: The out party is never more than a scandal or crisis away from power.

    Against that possibility, I’d like to see Trump nominated. Disaster under Rubio or Cruz is a given: tax cuts and deficits, supply side, wider war in the ME, a new Scalia, AGW denial. Trump’s a wild card. He can’t do worse.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: I can’t help but keep seeing Rubio as a Velveeta sandwich on Wonder Bread.

    Ok, last night he managed to get a little red pepper on top as well.

  15. Joe Gage says:

    I’m looking forward to the release of Trump’s tax returns. It will not only show his sketchy deals, lower net worth, and that he is probably the stingiest billionaire in the US. He gave practically nothing to 9/11 charities as well as 0 for Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.

    Here’s a look at his 2010 tax returns of the Trump Foundation

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/miserly-donald-trump-654712

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/celebrity/donald-trump-empathy-gap-754693

  16. C. Clavin says:

    If this were August or September of last year and Rubio, Cruz, or someone else were mounting the same aggressive attack that they did last night then perhaps it might make a difference.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-research_us_56cf2c6de4b03260bf75b395

    Not taking Trump seriously as a candidate a year ago was a mistake we all made, so I don’t blame his Republican opponents for that. But the lack of evidence that they have been doing thorough research on Trump more recently is malpractice

  17. Hal_10000 says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    Good God. Well at least you can get rid of credit card debt in bankruptcy (something Donald knows a lot about) How long will it take the Democrats to make a commercial w/ someone from his university? Ten seconds?

  18. dmichael says:

    @Ron Beasley: It is not possible to discern why candidates continue to campaign for the Republican nomination even after it is clear that they won’t win, with the exception of Ben Carson, the sleepy surgeon. He wants to continue to “fleece the rubes” by collecting campaign donations and have his buddies spend it on themselves and their friends. Remarkably, he recently admitted that those in his campaign handling finances don’t seem to understand finances and then sent out a campaign solicitation that suggested he needs to on the Republican ticket, even as a VP because he could then get the black vote.

  19. Hurling Dervish says:

    @Hal_10000: @Hal_10000: @Hal_10000: @Hal_10000: Hal – the GOP didn’t attack Trump at the start because they were afraid it would drive Trump to an independent run. Still a serious concern for them. They likely believed an ADD blowhard like this without any serious proposals on the table would burn himself out and go do something else. They didn’t count on the weakness of the rest of the field and the passion for Trump’s rhetoric.

  20. SenyorDave says:

    @Hurling Dervish: A lot of the GOP base is tired of dog whistles. They want a bigot who is loud and proud. And Trump gives them that. They don’t give a damn about policy, its been decades since the Republicans have had any realistic policies on issues that matter. Gay marriage is far more important than tax policy, which is why independent tax policy groups are pretty much unanimous in their evaluations of all the Republican tax proposals as a complete joke.

  21. C. Clavin says:

    @SenyorDave:
    Exactly.
    Trump is taking every dog whistle that the Republican establishment has used for years to dupe the rubes and turning them up to 11.
    He’s actually promising to do what Republicans have always hinted at but never actually done. He’s satisfying the emotions that Republican establishment have always teased, but never bothered to actually satisfy.
    And all the rubes really care about is their emotions.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @dmichael: I don’t know that the rest have motives all that much different than Carson’s. Judging by the people who have done it, apparently you can make a good living pretending to be a serious Republican candidate, e.g. Newt Gingrich and Herman Caine. Grifters gotta grift. Running for prez does seem to boost a guy’s personal brand. Which is probably why Trump started this. I think he’s as surprised by his success as the rest of us.

    And it is the GOPs, so Cruz and Rubio can be legitimately campaigning for next in line in 2020, at which point Dems will have held the presidency for three terms. Four is hard.

  23. Gustopher says:

    @Hal_10000: I don’t think Trump University is going to damage him one bit during the primaries. Student debt is a big issue to folks on the left, not the right.

    In the general election, I think it makes a big difference.

  24. MBunge says:

    @Hal_10000: But this is the first time I’ve seen a Presidential candidate who I think is dangerous.

    I’m not saying Trump isn’t dangerous but what exactly is he going to do? Invade a foreign country for no good reason? Order the torture of military prisoners? Stand by fiddling while the global economy barrels toward implosion?

    This whole thing reminds me of that scene in The Dark Knight between The Joker and Two-Face. Nobody panics if everything goes according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying. Let Ted Cruz talk about seeing if “sand can glow in the dark” or Rubio say he’s willing to risk war with Russia to enforce a no-fly zone in Syria and nobody panics because it’s all part of the plan. But let Donald Trump suggest one little old Muslim ban and EVERYONE LOSES THEIR MINDS!

    Mike

  25. Gustopher says:

    @Jeron: I view the turnout a little differently.

    Democratic turnout is lower than normal in the primaries because we all know it will be Clinton — why bother going out when it Is decIded. That leaves the Sanders folks coming oUt and doing better than expected, and only the true ply dedicated coming out for Clinton. It’s a little worrisome, but not terrible.

    Republican turnout is crazy high because the Republican coalition is cracking badly and this is basically a civil war. If the winner can repair the coalition, they will do respectably in the general election — but that’s a pretty big if.

    I am a bit surprised by the fault lines being Racists, Tea Party and Establishment, since I was assuming the Racists and the Tea Party would mostly overlap — but Cruz is Cuban, so I guess that cannot happen. Also, no evangelical candidate — that just seems to be spread among the Tea Party and Establishment. The Estsblishment wing cannot copy the Tea Party wing, because no one who has worked with Ted Cruz likes him.

    I’m also surprised the Racist wing is so large.

  26. David M says:

    In some ways we’ve been watching the rise of Trump for the last 8 years. Both the Tea Party and the GOP Establishment have talking like Obama is literally destroying the country, and promising nonsense the entire time. But the GOP Establishment has been attacked as sellouts since 2010 by these outside groups and the national party can’t really function anymore. That’s why the attacks on Trump don’t work, the GOP voters don’t trust the GOP.

  27. Grewgills says:

    @Gustopher:
    Cruz is as much evangelical as tea party, The scariest parts of him are from his christian dominionist background and that’s all evangelical.

  28. Joe Gage says:

    That disgusting whale Christie just endorsed Trump. Probably promised him the AG post if he wins.

  29. Tyrell says:

    The debate on the whole had some good, intelligent discussions on some important issues, such as the immigration crisis and the health care issues. But other issues were, as usual, ignored: not a lot about the economy, no mention of the Federal Reserve problem, little about foreign policy, and not any about energy policy or government reforms.
    I prefer the arrangement in which the candidates are individually asked questions from the audience.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    @Grewgills:

    The scariest parts of him (Cruz) are from his christian dominionist background and that’s all evangelical.

    And the supposedly liberal MSM won’t touch that with a ten foot pole. Why would we even think about giving nuclear launch codes to someone who’s looking forward to the end of the world?

  31. Tillman says:

    >Christie endorses Trump
    >Lindsey Graham says his party is going “batshit crazy”
    They’re getting what they want, and they’re getting it good and hard.

  32. Hal_10000 says:

    @MBunge:

    Because Trump has no understanding of how the system works, why it works that way and the dangers of subverting it to his ambition. Because he is tapping into a very dangerous xenophobic segment of the population. Because if he really means everything he says, he could start a second Trail of Tears trying to roust Mexicans out of this country (although I don’t think that will actually happen). Because he could get us into a war by accident.

    All presidents are egotistical. You have to be to survive the gauntlet. But Trump is all ego. He could do anything with power. There’s a part of my mind that thinks his bluster is all an act. That he’s just playing the populace and would actually govern sensibly. But I’m disinclined to gamble the Republic on my optimism.

  33. Hal_10000 says:

    @MBunge:

    Another good point made here on what can happen when you elect a attention-hogging jackass.

  34. MBunge says:

    @Hal_10000: Because Trump has no understanding of how the system works, why it works that way and the dangers of subverting it to his ambition.

    Well, I would bet that Trump has a better understanding of how the system ACTUALLY works and why it ACTUALLY works that way that you, given that he’s spent his adult life doing business deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars that involve the government in all sorts of ways.

    As for ambition, I must ask again. Is Trump going to invade a foreign country for no good reason? Threaten to default on U.S. debts? Shoot a friend in the face and then make that friend go on television and apologize for getting his face in the way?

    And the GOP has been tapping into a very dangerous xenophobic segment of the population for a very, very, very long time. Is Trump to be blamed for doing the same thing but doing it better?

    We live in a system of checks and balances. If that system is so degraded that someone like Trump can run roughshod over it, he’s not really the problem…is he?

    attention-hogging jackass.

    George W. Bush and Dick Cheney got thousands of Americans and at least tens of thousands of Iraqis killed while setting off a series of events that has led to even more death and misery throughout the Middle East. They also ordered the torture of military prisoners. But it’s Trump we would worry about?

    Mike

  35. Mikey says:

    @MBunge:

    George W. Bush and Dick Cheney got thousands of Americans and at least tens of thousands of Iraqis killed while setting off a series of events that has led to even more death and misery throughout the Middle East. They also ordered the torture of military prisoners. But it’s Trump we would worry about?

    We can’t have both?