Time Magazine asked its readers who won the latest GOP debate, and by Sunday morning 65 percent of 50,000 respondents had answered: Donald Trump. That is not a surprise. What is a surprise is that Marco Rubio and the man who wiped the floor with him, ended up tied at 8 percent.
This is a bit of a head-scratcher. Even Fox News’ Chris Wallace perceived it as a “takedown” and said that “Rubio seemed almost to unravel like a witness under cross examination.”
Politico reports one Republican operative saying,
“It was bizarre, man, why did he keep saying the same thing over and over and over?” said a GOP operative who is close to Rubio’s Washington-based campaign team. “It was like looking at your iPhone and the video freezes and says it’s buffering. Weird.”
Yet a Blaze poll of its readers also shows Christie and his victim tied, leaving you to wonder how many people actually watched the debate, or whether Republican viewers are just that immune to the facts in front of them.
The media verdict was not kind: Politico said Rubio “choked” and Slate said he embarrassed himself. The Guardian went so far as to say Rubio “had a disaster” at the debate, that his exchange with Christie “was a damning, jaw-dropping moment” from which “Rubio never recovered.”
Not according to some of these polls. According to some Republicans, apparently, this jaw-dropping moment never happened.
Is that what Republican voters are looking for in a candidate? Or did they not see what even obtuse Fox News personalities saw? Or like Hugh Hewitt on Meet the Press are they somehow able to convince themselves that their hero somehow won the debate except for the bit where he didn’t: the part where Chris Christie wiped the floor with him?
Donald Trump won Tuesday night because he did not lose Saturday night, and I think John Kasich pole vaulted over Marco Rubio into second place by being winsome and completely affable and very New Hampshire, but I’m a contrarian on Rubio, he won all of that debate except those three minutes. That will push him back, but he had a terrific second half. And I think he’ll get the bronze come Tuesday night.
The problem is, those three minutes were the important three minutes. And in what sense did he win the rest of it? This is unexplained and likely to remain so. Cognitive dissonance allows but for one result, one favorable to your worldview.
Hewitt is apparently not alone as a new Monmouth University survey released Sunday (some of the polling was done before the debate) shows Trump in the lead and Rubio, if falling (barely to third, still holding a lead over Cruz, while the Rubio crusher Chris Christie languishing with just 6 percent to Rubio’s 13.
The latest CNN/WMUR tracking poll shows that Rubio at 16% and Ted Cruz at 14%. Chris Christie is at 4 percent, behind Carly Fiorina, who didn’t rank high enough to even appear in the Saturday’s debate.
The result of the debate seems to be that Trump continues to win and that while Christie’s crushing of Rubio fascinated the media, it really had little effect on the rest of the race. Sure, Rubio has failed to capitalize on his third place finish in Iowa (can anyone build momentum from a third place finish?), but he also didn’t sink to the bottom of the pack as a result of his disastrous performance.
Chris Christie, who made him look the fool, saw only his own ego benefit as he draws the conclusion that the exchange just goes to prove what he has been saying all along is true: that he is more fit to sit in the Oval Office than the guy who thinks he is running against Obama.
The voters – the folks who matter – were far less impressed by the debate exchange than the media, which only goes to show how far we can trust the media as an accurate gauge of American feelings on any given subject. But then Republicans, for whom ‘truthiness’ has always carried more weight than actual ‘truth,’ tend to see what they want to see.
Fox News’ Brett Baier, addressing the issue on Fox News Sunday, had a possible explanation for what didn’t happen post debate:
We’re not talking about somebody here, Ted Cruz, who — for Ted Cruz — I don’t think had his best debate night. He’s obviously really good in that environment. But because of the Rubio-Christie exchange at the beginning, largely the night went away for Ted Cruz and he probably benefits in the long run. And because all of the governors had a good night, that dilutes the fact that Rubio had such a bad night.
Oh. So everybody else was so good nobody noticed Chris Christie being better than the rest of them at absolutely demolishing the establishment’s favored champion.
That’s the sort of insightful political analysis we’ve come to expect from Brett Baier.
It might be better to go back to that old English and American adage about beating a dead horse. In this case, it is the dead horse, Chris Christie, that is doing the beating, and so nobody cares. The dead don’t get an opinion, and that means nothing Christie does at this point is likely to have any effect on the living, even if the living are barely not dead themselves according to the polls.
Despite media excitement over Christie’s Rubio smackdown, Republican voters seem barely to have noticed, as though Christie were already speaking from the grave, and it would seem if Christie’s goal was to take out Marco Rubio that it has failed.
In the end, Christie’s epic performance could go down in history as the biggest smackdown that never mattered.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.
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