One initial observation: Thank God I was wrong about this yesterday. And then a question: Where in the bloody hell has this been for the past eight months, back when it might have made a difference?
More astoundingly, it was Senator Rubio who was the "alpha-male" of the night, systematically dismantling and blowing up the billionaire (?) slumlord with relentless substance and derision and (at times self-deprecating, as when he riffed on Trump "repeating himself") ridicule, the latter two of which constituted feeding the gander the same sauce the gander been feeding all the geese since last summer. And the glass-jawed Trump reacted to it just as poorly as he did in South Carolina two weeks ago:
In the first few minutes, after Wolf Blitzer rang the bell to start the fight at the GOP debate in Houston, Rubio threw punch after punch after punch at Donald Trump, barely letting one land before he moved on to the next one. Campaigns put together portfolios of attacks that plan to use, called “oppo books.” Marco Rubio pulled every sheet out of that book and then tossed the empty cover at Trump, too, for good measure.
That was nerves. Less than an hour later, Rubio was landing strategic, gleeful blows, and Trump was flustered. Rubio’s best line was the one about how if Trump hadn’t gotten an inheritance, he’d be selling watches. But the one that grated on Trump the most was when he noted Trump’s habit of repeating himself. Over that hour, it was like Rubio leveled up.
During that first flurry, it was clear which point Rubio thought would be the most effective. He repeatedly told viewers to Google “Trump Polish workers” or “Donald Trump Polish workers,” so that people would read the details of a suit filed against the developer involving the construction of Trump Tower. That suit, which was eventually settled, accused Trump of knowingly employing and abusing illegal Polish [alien]s to work on building the structure.
Just think, folks: Rubio could have been doing this at every debate since last August. Ditto Cruz. Trump was always this vulnerable, this "mile wide and an inch deep". It was simply a matter of keeping their eyes on the big picture, girding their loins, doing their homework, and opening fire - which, tragically, they never did. Trump's biggest vulnerability is his ego. It's an impossible target to miss. And unlike Barack Obama, whose ego is the only one that surpasses his, Trump doesn't have any race card behind which to hide. He's ripe for the taking. Always has been. It's just that nobody actually bothered to beat the bleep out of him until Rubio did last night. And when the Floridian was done, there was nothing left of Hairboy but flaming, smoking wreckage behind his debate podium.
It was glorious. And, needless to say, Rubio was universally declared the knockout winner.
Ted Cruz assumed the undercard role, letting Rubio whale on Trump and supplementing those blows with stiff jabs on ObamaCare, foreign policy, his shady, bumbling business practices, and a smackdown rejoinder to Trump's emblematic poll bragging that he'd be a general election disaster.
But after the cathartic fist-pumping dies down, we return to the tell-tale question, which, ironically, was once posed by Hillary Clinton:
In terms of the Trumplican hard core, little or none. But in terms of heading off the "bandwagon effect" and holding the New York liberal to that one-third ceiling, perhaps quite a bit:
It’s possible to win a primary with one-third of the vote, but it’s difficult to win a two-way or three-way race getting one in three voters. And that is a problem for Trump. His ceiling may prevent him from being the second choice of many Republicans. The folks at CNN kept repeating on primary night that if another candidate had performed like Trump has so far, everyone would be saying that he is unstoppable. That’s true, of course. But the point is that Donald Trump definitely is not like any other candidate. His language is not like a politician’s, and many of his positions are not classic Republican. That certainly enhances his appeal to some, but it disgusts and repels others, limiting his ability to attract significant additional support. Most candidates who win multiple early contests have demonstrated broad appeal. In contrast, Trump remains a deeply polarizing candidate whose message obviously touches a certain kind of voter – one who is angry, wants a political revolution and is looking for a political strongman to mount a campaign against perceived enemies. That describes many, but not necessarily most, Republican voters. The South Carolina exit poll found Trump doing very well among those voters who want a candidate who “tells it like it is” and well among those who want a candidate who “can bring needed change.” But he does very poorly among those respondents who want a candidate who “shares my values” and runs a weak second to Rubio among those who want a candidate who “can win in November.”...
Those who believe that Trump is unstoppable frequently note that no Republican who has won both New Hampshire and South Carolina has been denied the GOP’s nomination. That’s true, but I believe that we have already established that the old “rules” do not apply, so I am not sure why anyone should regard two primary victories this year as an iron law of Republican politics. None of this means that Trump can’t now win the nomination. But to do so, he will need to broaden his appeal – something that he has shown no inclination or ability to do, at least to this point. But South Carolina’s results didn’t change Trump’s prospects in the Republican race very much. The outcome was more of the same, not an indication of his growing support in the party. Until that happens – and it could happen or never happen – the GOP nomination is very much up for grabs. [emphases added]
This Stu Rothenberg column was published three days ago, before Trump got so thoroughly bitch-slapped by the little guy "who sweats too much". It is, in all likelihood, too little, way too late. But as always, we can hope and pray.
Here's Trump in full-scale, uncontrollable eyeroll-inducing damage-control mode post-debate, digging himself even deeper.
UPDATE: Regarding that last vid of Trump claiming that the reason his tax returns are being audited is because he's such a "strong Christian",,,,
....Pastor Lucado isn't buying it:
Best-selling Christian author Max Lucado believes Donald Trump speaks with a forked tongue when he calls himself a Christian one day and launches jaw-dropping personal attacks on people the next.
"It would be none of my business, I would have absolutely no right to speak up except that he repeatedly brandishes the Bible and calls himself a Christian," the San Antonio pastor said in an interview with Christianity Today magazine.
"If he's going to call himself a Christian one day and call someone a bimbo the next or make fun of somebody's menstrual cycle, it's just beyond reason to me."
Like the True Messiah said in Matthew 7:16, "You will know them by their fruits".
But at least the man who got power-bombed last night picked up the endorsement of the man who power-bombed his power-bomber a month ago. Maybe that's a thing, but if it is, it's not much of one.
UPDATE II: Man, oh Manischewitz, Rubes isn't taking his foot off the gas, is he?:
“A con artist is about to take over the Republican party and the conservative movement and we have to put a stop to it,” Rubio said early Friday.
He predicted that a Trump presidency would be “chaos,” blasting the New York businessman as “erratic” and “wholly unprepared to be president of the United States.”
“He refuses to answer questions in any specific public policy,” Rubio said. “He has no plans for health care, for example. They asked him about the debt, he claimed that he’s gonna cut the debt by cutting fraud and abuse. He didn’t get any follow-up or any press on that…We’re about to turn over the conservative movement to a person that has no ideas of any substance on the important issues.”
The attack continued on Good Morning America:
Senator Marco Rubio said today he would have liked not to attack fellow GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in Thursday night’s debate, but that he cannot allow the Republican Party to be led by a “con artist.”
“I would prefer not to get into this situation where we’re attacking one another,” he told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, but the perception of Trump as an “invincible force” has persuaded him to change his strategy.
With under five days to go until his campaign may be extinguished. Again, where was this several months ago? "Better late than never" might apply to a lot of situations, but does it work here?
“In my whole life I’ve had to fight and I’m going to fight now, because there is no way that the party of Reagan and the conservative movement, I’m going to allow it to be taken over by a con artist,” he said.
I fear that window has already closed, and he's trying to cover having been one of Trump's unwitting facilitators by going out with a bang. But again, at least conservatism's corpse is twitching a bit before Trump inters it.