Saturday’s Donald Trump debate performance was not the candidate’s finest hour, according to many political pundits and the Twitterverse.
If you were watching CBS News in real time and had access to the debate feed, then you would have been privy to the hits that the GOP frontrunner was taking from his fellow candidates.
Hitting him the hardest was Jeb Bush, and unlike previous Trump debate performances, this time “the Donald” had trouble with the former Florida governor.
Jeb hit heavily on Trump’s use of eminent domain — though oddly enough Trump himself was the one that brought it up — and also lashed out at him over getting “his foreign policy experience from the shows.”
While in previous Trump debate performances, the Donald was able to keep his calm and throw out zingers, this time he was visibly shaken and went after Bush’s family, standing by the idea that then-House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi should have impeached George Bush for the Iraq War.
Trump attacked the popular GOP talking point that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction,” accusing the former president of knowing that those didn’t exist when he got the U.S. into a war that cost “thousands of American lives” and “destabilized the Middle East.”
He even risked alienating vet support by laying the 9/11 terrorist attacks at W’s feet, pointing out that those happened on his watch and that “that wasn’t keeping us safe.”
It was a brutal night if you were going by the reaction online and in the room as a crowd filled largely with GOP donors — of which Trump doesn’t have a single one since he is self-funding — almost booed him off the stage.
The only thing that kept that from happening was the man himself. He didn’t back down from past views and contradictions. He even stood up for Planned Parenthood.
The Trump debate performance was sometimes compared to talking points that had been thrown out by the likes of liberal icon Michael Moore.
If anything was going to lay waste to Trump’s chances at the GOP nomination and show him to be an exposed liberal, it was this.
However, the Donald’s haters shouldn’t get their hopes up too much. Here’s why.
1. Marco Rubio rebounded nicely.
At the last GOP debate, Marco Rubio’s performance left much to be desired. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hit him hard and successfully painted him as a parroting robot, only saying the lines his handlers told him to say.
Rubio responded by repeating the very thing Christie was accusing him of — a line he delivered five times throughout the night.
However, Rubio faced the music, came clean about his bad performance, and turned in a substantially stronger performance Saturday night.
In fact, one could make the case he won. Chris Christie, on the other hand, had to bow out of the race following his strong performance.
The Donald can make a similar comeback. He’s got the time to do it.
2. Trump was too far ahead to lose his lead in one night.
Jeb Bush had the most to gain from the Trump debate meltdown as he was the one who hit the Donald hardest, but he’s polling so poorly that even a substantial bump will likely put him out of the race by the time Super Tuesday gets here.
Even if his special interest money is able to keep him afloat until then, voters have shown more affection for one of the other establishment candidates simply because they’re not a Bush.
While one should expect Trump to have a tougher road ahead of him in South Carolina, he’s got a week to repair the damage and will probably eke out a victory no matter how you look at it.
That puts his competition in an even worse position than they were after New Hampshire, but it does give the eventual establishment pick a chance after Super Tuesday on March 1. That guy will likely not be Jeb Bush, and Bush is the only candidate that really brings out Trump’s ugly side.
3. The rules have changed.
If this were a standard political fuss, the Trump debate performance would probably be a deal breaker, especially since John Kasich and even Ted Cruz joined Rubio in turning in solid performances.
But the Donald does one thing well. He reminds voters of why they are sick of run-of-the-mill politicians, continually painting them as “all talk, no action.”
Whenever he gets in a fix, the reminder of this and the fact that he’s self-funding goes a long way in helping his supporters to keep their eyes on the prize.
If anything, the fact Kasich, Rubio, and Cruz were so polished could even help his chances as it distinguishes him further from the norm.
Still, another Trump debate like the one tonight could, in fact, be a death blow to his candidacy. If not for the Republican nomination, then definitely for the general election.
But what do you think, readers? Was the Trump debate performance really that bad, and does it even matter at this point? Sound off in the comments section.