The ninth 2016 GOP Presidential Debate is in the books – and there are no words to describe it!
I don’t think “knock-down-drag-out” is sufficient. It was a bloodbath. Donald Trump was attacked from all sides and went on the attack as well. Many people believe Trump blew himself up tonight with his attacks on George W. Bush. That could be the case. But it also may not make much difference. We will know the answer to that in a week when South Carolina votes next Saturday.
— Wayne Dupree™ (@WayneDupreeShow) February 14, 2016
I think we saw Donald Trump let his emotions get the best of him tonight. In a heated exchange with Jeb Bush, Trump went to a place that was unwise and unnecessary. He said George W. Bush lied us into war in Iraq, accusing him of lying about WMDs. The truth is that all of the Intelligence pointed to Saddam Hussein having WMDs. Trump is right that the War in Iraq has ended up destabilizing the entire Middle East, but not because we didn’t win the war – because Barack Obama gave away the hard-fought victory won by our brave men and women. But Trump placed all the blame on George W. Bush.
He also repeated that the 9/11 Attacks happened on Bush 43’s watch – which it did. But Trump seemed to be blaming Bush for the World Trade Center Attacks, which is simply not fair to do. I don’t see how Trump thinks he gains from those attacks. Jeb Bush, who ran from his last name for most of this campaign, is calling George W. into South Carolina to campaign for him next week to try and save his hopes for the Presidency. Trump may be trying to preemptively weaken Bush’s influence with these attacks. It’s a risky strategy.Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio had a rough exchange as well, with Rubio calling Cruz a liar and Cruz slamming Rubio again for the Gang of Eight Amnesty Bill. Here’s how I would rank the candidates on how they did during this debate:
1. Marco Rubio – He bounced back from his rough last debate. Rubio was positive most of the time and landed some blows against Cruz. He certainly stopped the bleeding and helped himself tonight.
2. John Kasich – I think Kasich will continue to rise in the polls. He stayed out of the back-and-forth and is positioned as the sunny, optimistic candidate who can get things done.
3. Donald Trump – I didn’t agree with Trump’s attacks on GWB, but I think there is a method to Trump’s madness. He dominated the stage tonight. He created chaos, and unless his own remarks result in his candidacy blowing up, he wasn’t really harmed by anything the other candidates said to him. Trump needed to do enough to survive and win South Carolina. We don’t know how that will turn out. If he can win in South Carolina after saying what he did about Bush tonight, it’s hard to see what can stop him.
4. Ted Cruz – Cruz had a good night for the most part, but he did get hit by both Rubio and Trump on being a “liar” and a “nasty guy.” Cruz’s dirty tricks and his mischaracterizing of the positions of other candidates is catching up to him.
5. Jeb Bush – Was stronger than he has been many debates. But I just don’t think he comes across as a compelling candidate who can really galvanize voters. I don’t think his brother or mother campaigning with him will change that either. But we’ll see. I could certainly be wrong.
6. Ben Carson – Bless his heart. He just appears lost on the stage again and again. He’s really out of his depth in these debates. It shows.
We should know by mid-week whether this debate has damaged Trump. It could. But it’s also possible his attacks on George W. Bush may just feed what has fueled the rise of Donald Trump – that he is an outsider who hates the establishment and will not hold back in what he says – not even when the Bush name is involved in a GOP Primary. It’s going to be fascinating to see how it unfolds.