Tonight is one of the most important nights on the Republican calendar: the last debate before Super Tuesday. The conventional thinking is that if (a) nobody drops before the voting and (b) nothing changes then (c) TRUMP MAKES AMERICA GRATE AGAIN! Nobody wants that except Trump, white supremacists, and about 40% of the Republican party.
So the question people are asking is does Rubio or Cruz go nuclear on Trump--do they team up and do it together? If so, how? What hasn't been tried already?
The Omnivore's Question: Would It Matter
If you're Cruz, the problem with hitting Trump is that people already don't like you and going negative will drive your score down and Trump will call you a liar and a dirty campaigner (and Carson just might back it up) and whatever you prove about Trump, people will believe that about you.
On the other hand, you're slated to (maybe) win Texas on Tuesday and if you get that you're solid. So maybe you just hang in there and hope Trump trains his guns on Rubio.
If you're Rubio, the problem with hitting Trump is that he will literally make you cry on stage. Trump going after Rubio will release things that no ordinary politician and certainly not one in the same party would stand for. For example:
Hillary wouldn't do this (at least not with her fingerprints on it)--but Trump will. With relish--and whether that is a complete fabrication or not, his base will believe it and so will other people watching.
Even worse: if you manage to clobber Trump, where are his voters gonna go? Not to you--to Cruz. Maybe Carson. You're like coming in 3rd. Going to take those lumps to help Ted? Didn't think so.
Worse, the other two guys on stage--Carson and Kasich--have shown no inclination to hit Trump either--but they might well think that if Rubio or Cruz goes down they get closer to being last-man-standing when someone DOES take out Trump.
Someone will, right? Nate Silver will eventually have to kill him to keep the universal probabilities in alignment.
The Other Problem
Trump has something the other two don't: Charisma. If you don't believe that? Alright: Presence. When Trump goes on attack--even verbally--he's just plain hitting harder than Cruz or Rubio. Carson? Carson might have some defense--but Carson is cooked. Trump would just ignore Kasich. He's mean that way.
So What Do You Do?
We've been told that the attacks should be that he's a liberal. People don't care. That he's said things about Planned Parenthood that are good, or whatever. People don't care. That he attacked war heroes (McCain--he attacked the right war hero)--nobody cared. How about that those veterans still haven't gotten their cash Trump 'raised' for them.
No one cares (at least not yet).
Other (smart) people have suggested:
- He's a bad business man. Uh, yeah. He's doing better than I am.
- He's a hypocrite for having his clothes made in Mexico. He has his own clothing line, guys. Everything I wear is like made overseas.
- He's facing a fraud trial. So what? Hillary should be facing a treason trial and it hasn't stopped her, has it?
- He's in bed with the Mafia. . . . Coool.
No, Here's How You Attack Trump
The error in thinking here is that if Rubio or Cruz or someone says the right mean things about The Donald, he'll fall down and his people will desert him. That's not going to happen. Why not? It won't happen because his people like what he stands for--what he (convincingly, if not truthfully) says he stands for--and because he can stand for those things and do those things and nobody else can.
Everyone else apologizes. Not Trump. That's what they like about him--that he's a culture warrior--that he's a bully--he's their bully.
Also, they have been told the president is a tyrant. The rule of law is dead. America is a weakling power--no longer the greatest military. That our economy is in complete collapse. They have been told that their leaders--the GOP--are literal quisling traitors.
They've finally bought it--all of it--they believe it.
So now, what? They're gonna just flip-flop back to Rubio? Go with Gov. Kasich?
You want Trump's voters? You have to woo them. You have to compete on Trump's turf. You've got to be more outrageous. More bombastic. You have to show you're not afraid of political correctness--and that you don't care about insulting Megyn Kelly or McCain's war record--or anything.
You've got to look confident doing it. Can you imagine Rubio doing that?
You've got to look like a guy you could have a beer with after. Can you imagine Cruz doing that?