The showman in his element
My impression is that not many minds were changed -- those who supported a particular candidate mostly found reasons to continue to do so. The reactions of such dedicated political junkies, of course, may not be typical of less engaged people tuning in to the race for the first time. There were a lot of those -- the audience for the debate was an astonishing 24 million, far larger than for any previous such event. And I think we all know why that was -- the presence of a candidate like no other, the unpredictable man.
the Piñata Plutocrat has already carried off the trophy dearest to his heart. Who is still in the spotlight? Who is being talked about all over the internet? The "winner" Rubio? Yawn. As P M Carpenter observes, The Donald owned the 20 seconds that mattered, without even saying a word, when he alone refused to swear support for the eventual nominee or renounce the option of a third candidacy if the prize eludes him. He's keeping the nuclear option in hand.
somewhat concurs). Given Fox's status as the propaganda arm of the right wing, it would be easy for Trump (who is already castigating Megyn Kelly and her questions as "unfair") to see the hand of the party establishment behind an effort to neutralize him.
Trump's fans view his bully-in-a-china-shop manner and willingness to escalate confrontations as evidence of toughness and the ability to get things done. They're wrong. What he actually possesses is an even more awesome power -- the power of not giving a shit. Other Republicans are constrained by concern for the good of the party, for their own standing in the eyes of the party leadership and of the public, for the success of whatever ideology they hold. The Nietzschean Übermensch in their midst has transcended such simpering Sklavenmoral. He has no stake, nothing to lose, and that is what sets him free to do whatever he damn well pleases.
rejected efforts to draw him into attacks on Hillary Clinton, and has explicitly pledged not to run as a third candidate if he fails to win the Democratic nomination. That's because he does care -- about the good of the party and the country -- and knows that any course that might help elect a Republican President would be a deadly blow against the very values he is trying to promote.
No such sense of honor or loyalty constrains El Donald. As I expressed here, I believe that after failing (as he surely will) to win the Republican nomination, he will launch a third candidacy. Not to avenge himself upon the Republican establishment for treating him badly, although he'll surely construct a pretext along those lines. No, it will be to win himself another year in the spotlight. Think about it. His Presidential run has already gotten him far more attention than anything else he's ever done, and it's going to continue (no, I don't believe his debate performance has knocked him out of the race or even hurt him much). By the time the nomination is finally bestowed upon Jeb or Rubio or Walker, expecting Trump to go quietly into the night as just one more also-ran would be like expecting a drug addict to quit cold turkey after the greatest and longest high of his life.
The master showman will be part of this story for a long time yet -- right up until Hillary's landslide next November, in fact. If you think I'm hugely enjoying this, you're damn right I am. And every day I give thanks that this man is the Republicans' problem and not ours.