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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Fear of Trump Sets Debate Coverage Tone, But No Shockers

For cord-cutters and others who missed the Republican presidential debates last night, you can watch clips gratis at Fox News. For a blow by blow analysis, however, you can’t do better than Ed Kilgore’s live-blogging at The Washington Monthly, which political wonks and junkies will be perusing for further clues throughout the day. Kilgore has other perceptive posts on the debate and the Fox News’s relentless attack against Trump here, here and here.
In addition to Trump’s increased leverage, the trans-media consensus seems to be that one clear winner was…Carly Fiorina, who used her spot in the ‘happy hour” pre-debate to amp up her political persona as one of the more sober candidates. Despite her dubious track record as a business leader, Fiorina may have at least secured a spot on the short list of veep candidates. Kilgore however likens her performance to “a former CEO used to doing power-point presentations for stockholders doing her standard speech, amplified by a very lucky question she got about Donald Trump.”
Elsewhere, Michael Barbaro and Nicholas Confessore provide short takes at the New York Times, with plaudits for Rubio, Paul and Kasich. In another Times article Barbaro does an excellent job of showing how boorish was Trump’s performance, almost beyond expectations, although his verbal output at center stage tripled that of the others. He probably enhanced his image as the new face of the GOP, much to the party’s detriment.
At The Times Upshot, Nate Cohn credits Walker and Kasich with “good performances,” and Rubio “the debate’s top performer.” (To me Walker seemed somewhat muffled and Rubio and Kasich just so-so, while Bush did better than I expected).
At WaPo’s The Fix, Chris Cillizza’s “Winners and losers from the first Republican presidential debate” credits Ben Carson with the best closing statement, and puts Rubio Kasich and Fiorina in the winner’s circle. WaPo’s Stephen Stromberg argues that Christie, Kasich and Rubio “won the debate,” while the Post’s Jonathan Capehart gives the nod to Rubio and Fiorina.
Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. adds, “I saw three shows tonight during Fox News’ Republican debate: The Trump Show, The Kasich Dissent, and Everybody Else. Among those in that last category, Jeb Bush had a good night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had his moments, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) won more friends.”
In “Three Takeaways From the GOP Debate” the Wall St. Journal says Walker, Rubio, Kasich and Bush looked the most “presidential.”
Of course pundit consensus will not necessarily be reflected in opinion polls or election results going forward — especially when the wild card is a joker named Trump. While Trump may not have what it takes to be elected president, his refusal to rule out a run as a write-in Independent could make him a potential kingmaker. That prospect makes the GOP strategists and their minions at Fox News very nervous.

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