Anyone’s guess is as good as mine as to whether the Republican debate this week “mattered” or “made a difference” in the race — I’m leaning heavily towards “Nooo…” — but what I do know for sure is that there are some awfully stupid attempts out there to insist that it did.
First, it probably didn’t matter because Donald Trump is still the former president who received more votes as a sitting president than any president before him, and his lead in every poll is practically insurmountable. And that’s with potential prison time hanging over his head. He wants the job again, he’s eligible for another term, and at least half of the party’s voters want it for him. There’s time for some shocking revelation to warp things before the official state contests begin — assuming anything shocks you anymore — but the debate wasn’t shocking. It was shouting, and that’s about it.
Suggestions in the media that anyone “won” the debate or in some way altered the course of the race are either delusional or they’re efforts by anti-Trump “conservatives” to satisfy their dumb audiences.
Case in point, Bret Stephens at The New York Times declared Woman Lady Girl Gal Nikki Haley “the star of the evening” with “the aura of someone who can win a general election.” What Stephens really means is that Haley sent his heart aflutter when she snapped at one of her opponents, “You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows. It shows.” That sassy little clap was directed at Vivek Ramaswamy because he said he wasn’t interested in sending another $500 billion dollars to Ukraine, a sentiment shared by, oh, just a majority of the U.S. population.
Even more cringe-worthy was The Wall Street Journal editorial board golf clapping what it called “a very good Republican presidential debate.” The paper heralded Mike Pence, polling nationally somewhere between zero and “He seems like a nice fellow,” referring to him as “the adult in the room” because he too is eager to pump more taxpayer dollars into a foreign war. “At least for one night,” the Journal said, “GOP voters were able to see that they have better choices.”
Entertaining an alternate reality wherein the GOP nomination is up for equal grabs is pointless. Bret Stephens, editors at the Journal, and others in the media no doubt prefer a Republican more in line with their own sensibilities — which is to say, at odds with a majority of actual Republican voters.
That’s not going to happen. Calling Nikki Haley “a star” and Mike Pence “the adult” won’t make it so.