If you watched any of last night’s GOP “debate” on Fox News you may have noticed that it was a little unfair and unbalanced.
The word came in from our best-sourced Fox News Kremlinologists: Fox News had settled for Donald Trump. Roger Ailes had given up on the hapless Marco Rubio. Megyn Kelly was sounding conciliatory, granting that Trump appeared more and more presidential. Rupert Murdoch himself tweeted that the party would be “mad not to unify” around nominee Donald Trump. It worked: Donald Trump arrived, unsuspecting, for his ambush.
Trump was beginning to make noise about skipping tonight’s contest. Bill Kristol (lol, I know), practically reported that Trump had decided to use his Super Tuesday victories as an excuse to skip all future debates. Could it be that all of that chatter was designed to assure Trump that Fox’s moderators would go easy on him? Was there some cunning strategy behind the fashioning of this pre-debate narrative of Fox’s inevitable Trump acceptance?
If so, it was a brilliant maneuver. Tonight we saw the attempted assassination of front-runner Donald Trump, beginning early and sustained for almost the entire night. Fox prepared elaborate multimedia presentations designed to make Trump explain away his erratic positions and policy proposals. They hammered him on Trump University and got him to flip-flop on immigration. All night, Fox’s moderators forced Trump to directly reckon with his contradictory positions and statements, complete with video packages illustrating those contradictions. No other candidate faced a similar onslaught.
Near the end of the debate, Fox just openly played a clip from an anti-Trump attack ad, ostensibly as part of a “question” for John Kasich.
If indeed Fox lured Trump into an ambush, it would be perhaps the canniest move the conservative establishment has made this entire election cycle, and the first documented example of anti-Trump coordination actually working (to whatever degree it will turn out tonight “worked”).
It also probably came about six months too late. And there is still no one candidate well-positioned to solely benefit from any anti-Trump coordination.
There are two problems for the GOPe right now:
1. Is anybody paying attention anymore?
2. If not Trump, who?
Last night was the 11th GOP debate. I’m sure that lots of reporters, pundits, bloggers and other political junkies were watching. But that is really a small fraction of the voting public.
On the east coast it was prime time and people had to choose between their favorite shows and the debate. On the left coast people were still coming home from work and it was dinner time. So how many undecided voters even bothered to watch?
As of right now Trump is the front runner. That is kinda like being the reigning champ in boxing. Any challengers have to knock you out, but all you have to do is survive. It is not enough for Cruz or Rubio to merely win the debate, they needed to change hearts and minds.
I don’t see it. There may have been some hard punches thrown last night, but nobody scored a knock out. Kasich probably did the best overall job, but he’s too far behind and it was too little too late.
Marco Rubio came across like a snotty prep school punk.
What do you think? Do you even care?