Choke artists, liars, con artists, oh my! Sounds like the next contestants on Judge Judy – but no these were the insults and maturity level on display Thursday night as the Republicans gathered in Houston, Texas, for their party’s 10th presidential debate.
I was waiting for a spirited game of, “I know you are, but what am I” to break out.
With the number of candidates down to five, it was easier to fit them on a stage, but only three were really in play.
The focus all night was on Donald Trump, with Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) to his right and Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) on his left, both constantly on attack like junk yard dogs trying to take on the big dog.
There were moments when the pups scored. Rubio hit Trump on employing undocumented workers in his Florida properties and that the frontrunner could not adequately explain his healthcare plan. Trump also was vigorously assailed for not turning over his tax returns.
These two-sided attacks almost flustered Trump, but there was never a knockdown. Why Cruz and Rubio only now find it appropriate to attack the man that has been leading this field for months is curious.
But it appears to be too late to inflict significant damage prior to Super Tuesday. Trump has won the last three nominating contests and has built his power-aura that deflects much of the criticism coming his way.
Super Tuesday offers 12 state primaries, with 595 Republican delegates – about 25 percent of the total number – all in play. Republicans need 1,237 delegates to win the party’s nomination.
The big prize is Texas, Cruz’s home state and his firewall. Cruz is up 5 to 10 points in polls. He must find a way to hold off Trump and win the Lone Star State and its 155 delegates or he’s out of the race.
No pressure Ted!
The big winners Thursday were Democrats. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both looked infinitely more presidential than any of the leading Republicans.
While GOP frontrunners may have failed to take Trump seriously and are only now doing opposition research on him, Clinton has a thick file on Trump ready to be unleashed.
Trump does have problems with his taxes or he would have released them. Either he is not as wealthy as he claims, doesn’t contribute to veterans and other charities or he is taking advantage of tax loopholes for the super-wealthy.
Under audit or not, none of those items will play well. But trotting out Mitt Romney to make this case, who had his own tax problems, isn’t going to have any credence with Trump or the electorate.
The scary thing about Trump’s followers is they don’t care that he is ill-prepared. They don’t care if his policies are not fully thought out. It doesn’t matter that he backed Planned Parenthood or isn’t giving Israel his full backing.
They trust in Trump that he will take care of them.
That is a flimsy doctrine to walk into a general election behind. The question is can the establishment find a way to expose Trump as an inauthentic conservative? If it can be shown that he can’t be trusted to implement orthodox policies, then you might see Trumpinistas turn on their benefactor.
Tune in Tuesday to see which candidates take a huge step forward in securing their party’s nominations.