Readers may recall that my American friend, the Political Animal, lives and breathes politics. Most recently, he told us his view on the Iowa debate: With Iowa over, it may legitimately be said—albeit weirdly—that only now the presidential race is under way.
Here is his take on last night in New Hampshire.
Nothing has changed the fundamental dynamic which is that, to the establishment’s despair, the nomination remains Trump’s to lose.
Last night’s Republican presidential debate was something of a marvel to behold simply for the fact that it buttressed the idea that they can matter. It’s easy to become sanguine when debate after debate seems to make no appreciable difference in the standings of the various candidates. Last night was different and for one candidate it could be decisive.
Donald Trump won the debate by what he said, how he said it and by what he didn’t say. Even the New York Times noticed that he put in a remarkable performance, calibrated and serious but with no loss of his energy and fire. His return to form, if that’s what it was, reassured his supporters in New Hampshire and throughout the country after his second place finish in Iowa last week.
Trump broke the Fourth Wall. I’m not sure it can ever be repaired. Another signal service by the man the establishment loves to hate and whom the Democrats fear mightily.
One moment stood out, however, perhaps changing presidential debates forever. In a remarkable exchange with the studio audience, Trump responded to its vigorous booing of him on some issue (it hardly matters what & I can’t recall it this morning) by calling them out. By which I mean he said, flatly, that the audience consisted of donors, special interests and lobbyists. He said the Republican National Committee gave his campaign almost no tickets, that they had indeed been given out to the types Trump had just identified. The audience was enraged at being called out and booed even more, thereby confirming the very accusation that had just been
made against them.
Trump broke the Fourth Wall. I’m not sure it can ever be repaired. Another signal service by the man the establishment loves to hate and whom the Democrats fear mightily. Polling released today showed Trump’s lead in the Granite State increasing. He remains the odds on favorite to win, placing him in an excellent position come February 20th to do well in South Carolina.
Another moment that stood out was the meltdown of Marco Rubio, the establishment’s choice now that the chances of Jeb Bush’s resurrection seem permanently extinguished. This came when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie mercilessly attacked Rubio for having no accomplishments, being an empty suit and campaigning in a shallow, robotic way.
Rubio’s response showed just how fragile he is as a candidate. In response to being called robotic, he became more robotic, repeating the same lines for which he had just been called out on. It was painful and devastating. It happened more than once too, prompting Christie to yell out “There it is, the memorized 25 second speech.”
Rubio’s purported surge from having come in third in Iowa was always over hyped, even though he showed movement in some polling. The most recent tracking data, however, had him flat lining and being eclipsed by others. Last night’s disaster seems sure to hasten that descent further. If he doesn’t come in second in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, it’s difficult to see a path forward for him, although it won’t be for lack of the establishment’s efforts. This morning’s spinning by them about last night’s carnage is painful, essentially amounting to “you most certainly didn’t see what you saw.”
The governors had a good night on balance: Chris Christie for the aforementioned reasons, Jeb Bush who showed more energy than ever before, interrupting in order to get in on a conversation, Ohio’s John Kasich who offered himself as a democrat-lite, hoping to find enough buyers to place second or third.
Someone said Texas Senator and Iowa caucus winner Ted Cruz seemed wholly irrelevant and that strikes me as correct. He won’t do well in New Hampshire and has been courting support in South Carolina as a way of staying competitive. That strategy might yet work, especially given the remarkable meltdown of Marco Rubio.
Trump has railed against the suffocating culture of political correctness, which is most often manifested by controlling language, dictating what can and can’t be said and how. To control language is, in a sense, to control thinking itself. If he were to drop out today he’d have done the country a signal service just for breaking its stranglehold.
The presidential race remains what it has been for some time: a one of a kind candidate in Donald Trump taking the political world by storm, baffling everyone and creating real excitement and interest. Other republican candidates have struggled to find their place in this newly ordered world, some more successfully than others. Yet nothing has changed the fundamental dynamic which is that, to the establishment’s despair, the nomination remains Trump’s to lose.
Sometimes anecdotes are quite revealing of larger phenomenon. Trump has railed against the suffocating culture of political correctness, which is most often manifested by controlling language, dictating what can and can’t be said and how. To control language is, in a sense, to control thinking itself. If he were to drop out today he’d have done the country a signal service just for breaking its stranglehold.
Today, though, Hillary Clinton said in an interview that people were too easily offended, sounding like you know who.
When the Trump effect reaches even Lady Macbeth, you know it’s real, pervasive and permanent.
Reality check: The larger reality is that the American middle class and solid working class no longer have enough resources to attract a solid Republican candidate who could represent them without a trace of political correctness. (Trump has changed his party affiliation a number of times, apparently.)
Sensing that times have been changing for decades, establishment Republicans are just looking to benefit from their voters’ helplessness instead, getting elected and then dealing away the voters’ remaining social capital and sneering at them.
Right now, all those voters can hope for is that, whatever disaster looms, those Republican will at least not get to batten off them as richly.
People with nothing else to hope for seek revenge, but the Republicans just do not get it, even now. We’ll hear from the Animal again after South Carolina.
I’ll see if I can get him off the scent to answer a few more questions in the mean time.
See also: The Political Animal: Trump in Iowa – the forest vs. the trees
Political Animal on US Conservatives going nuts hating Trump
My American friend on why the GOP must die For the United States to get on its feet again.
US middle class ready for a 3rd party? But why does it matter if they are? The reasons the middle class is declining are historical and structural. Today, the power and money will come from marketing the newly needy, often to struggle against each other in identity group conflicts.
The Political Animal assesses conservatives freaked re Trump
My American friend: More on why Trump will be prez
American political junkie friend explains why Trump will win
Why is Justin Trudeau Canada’s prime minister?