The 9th Debate was hyped to be a battle royale--and in the second half, it was. The debate was judged nasty, personal, and discordant. A few notes:
- The general consensus is that Bush (or Cruz, or Rubio) won--and Trump lost (and Carson was barely there). Following the Rubio-Collapse, a Trump crash-and-bleed-out could be a game-changer in South Carolina. Couldn't it?
- That Trump joined the truther-squad for 9/11. Or, at least, that his attacks on W. were from the lefty-mc-leftists. That should kill him, shouldn't it?
- Nobody came off well.
The Omnivore's take is as follows:
Trump Probably Survives
Trump probably did not hurt himself with his assault on Bush and Cruz. Firstly, his core supporters won't leave him over allegations that Bush "knew" there weren't WMD in Iraq. It's a hit, yes--but at this point? As Hillary might say? What difference does it make?
The Trumpian Base is pretty much just universally mad at everyone in power and that means anything that remotely smells of establishment. Secondly, Trump's various flirtations with left ideas haven't hurt him yet. Finally? Conspiracy? Pshaw--these guys live on conspiracy theory.
The Debate Was Stacked (Maybe?)
Trump alleged--and there seems to be some truth to it--that the debate audience was stacked with Jeb/Rubio supporters and donors. Exactly to what degree, and how unusual this is, seems to be a matter of debate--but it makes the point that Trump getting booed and Jeb / Rubio getting cheers might be more wishful thinking than South Carolina politics.
If we see Trump overpower the electorate again in the polls (a Feb 10-12 CBS poll put Trump at a staggering 44%) then we'll know that conventional weapons don't work on him any better than they do on Godzilla.
As noted here before, the window to stop Trump gets narrow fairly quickly. Candidates need to drop out. Three by Feb 29th, and then all but 1 by March 15th. The major issue with candidates dropping is that the reasons for them to bow out are currently weak. In order:
Reason To Drop: He can't win. Nobody other than Democrats really likes him and playing the "Adult in the room" just painfully high-lights the fact that the GOP electorate doesn't want an adult-in-the-room.
Reason Not To Drop: He came in 2nd in New Hampshire. That's not nothing.
When He Drops: After a last-place finish in SC. Probably.
Reason To Drop: He's fatally damaged and has collapsed in the polls. His debate was weak.
Reason Not To Drop: Spite. Cruz stole his voters and he could steal them back. His 5% is probably enough of an albatross to keep Cruz back on his heels. Also: loyalty--his supporters are telling him to stay in. He feels a sense of commitment to them (and they can keep giving him money). He might feel he has to stay in until like Super Tuesday.
When He Drops: The Omnivore will say after March 1st.
Reason To Drop: Humiliation. He's been under-performing for ever. At this point he probably doesn't even want the job. He hasn't won a state.
Reason Not To Drop: The states he hasn't won don't matter. Florida, his state, does. Secondly, he had the best debate of his life Saturday night--he finally hit Trump where it hurt. The RNC is, kinda, pulling for him. He might win Florida--and, hey, doesn't he have like a patriotic duty to stand against Trump (and doesn't he want to at least screw over Rubio, even if he can't win?).
When He Drops: After coming in 3rd in Florida on March 15th.
Reason To Drop: None yet. Sure, he got hammered in NH--but he bounced back this debate. He's not done yet. He's still the Trump-Cruz alternative so he'd be an idiot not to stay in a few cycles longer.
Reason Not To Drop: Depending on what happens, Rubio might be able to pull a win in a brokered convention if he keeps running a strong 3rd.
When He Drops: If he drops, it'll be coming in 2nd in Florida on March 15th.
Reason To Drop: None.
Reason Not To Drop: He's running 2nd in the race. He's aiming for a good score in South Carolina. Sure, he'll have problems in the bigger, bluer states--but Trump-fear could propel him to the top slot, couldn't it?
When He Drops: When they pry him off Trump's leg at the convention and use the Jaws of Life to disengage his mouth clamped deeply into The Donald's thigh muscle.
Reason To Drop: Love of America
Reason Not To Drop: America not yet great again.
When He Drops: Hospitalized after Cruz-bite wound becomes septic.