Friday, August 7, 2015

Donald Trump Still Dominant After GOP's Raucous Presidential Debate

One of the better reports I read last night, from Karen Tumulty and Philip Rucker, at the Washington Post, "Trump roils first debate among GOP contenders":
CLEVELAND — Donald Trump landed on the Republican debate stage like a hand grenade here on Thursday night — serving notice that he may run as an independent if he does not get the party’s nomination, dismissing criticism of his insulting comments about women as “political correctness” and flatly calling the nation’s leaders “stupid.”

The current leader of the GOP pack drew boos and cheers from the audience and set the tone for a raucous two-hour debate. And other candidates acknowledged that Trump, a celebrity billionaire known for his showman’s flair, has tapped into a genuine current of public outrage and exasperation.

“Donald Trump’s hitting a nerve in this country. He is. He’s hitting a nerve,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said. “People are frustrated, they’re fed up, they don’t think the government’s working for them. People who want to tune him out are making a mistake.”

Only 10 of the 17 declared contenders for the 2016 GOP nomination appeared in the first official debate of the 2016 campaign season. They were chosen by debate sponsor Fox News Channel because they ranked highest in the polls, though some of them are barely registering.

Trump’s entry into the race — and his continuing rise despite a series of incendiary comments — has thrown into chaos a party that is normally known for a coronation-like orderliness in its nominating process.

A first-time candidate, Trump is overshadowing the bids of a host of current and former governors and senators. And he is undercutting party leaders’ hopes of upgrading the GOP’s image by presenting a field of candidates distinguished by their experience, policy expertise and gravitas.

The internecine battle also is shifting focus from making their larger case against the Democratic front-runner, former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, at a time when her poll numbers are sinking.

“Let’s be clear, we should be talking about Hillary Clinton . . . because everywhere in the world that Hillary Clinton touched is more messed up today than before,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said.

The moderators’ questioning of Trump was particularly aggressive.

“The questions to me were not nice. They were inappropriate,” Trump told reporters after the debate. “But you know what? The answers were good, obviously, because everyone thinks I won.”

Trump was asked to explain the bankruptcies of his companies (he responded that he simply used bankruptcy laws to maximum advantage); to detail his evidence that the Mexican government was sending criminals over the border (he said U.S. Border Patrol agents had told him so); why he once supported a single-payer health-care system (he said it worked well in Canada and Scotland); what favors he received for his campaign donations to Hillary Rodham Clinton (he said she showed up at his wedding on demand); and when he became a Republican (he did not say).

In one particularly vivid exchange, Fox News’s Megyn Kelly noted that Trump had referred to women with whom he had disagreed as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”

After interrupting with “Only Rosie O’Donnell,” referring to a celebrity with who he has feuded, Trump replied more fully: “I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

He also minimized his comments as “fun, it’s kidding. We have a good time. What I say is what I say. And honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me.”

It was pointed out that, if he follows through on his threat to run as an independent, Trump could doom the Republican Party’s chances of victory in 2016. Trump noted that gives him “a lot of leverage.”
Still more.