Monday, October 10, 2016
Jonathan V. Last explains in the conservative journal The Weekly Standard.
There is one important sense in which Donald Trump "won" the debate on Sunday night: He did not implode. He wasn't "good," or attractive, or knowledgeable. He was coarse and whiny and unpleasant. He liedconstantly. And he became the first presidential candidate in the history of our Republic to promise that if elected he would attempt to have his opponent face criminal prosecution. Actually, he went a bit further than that, telling Clinton that if he is president, "You'd be in jail." Which, by the by, should terrify you and be disqualifying all on its own.
This is unprecedented. And catastrophic. Before the "grab them by the pus—y" tape, Trump was already down by five points with only four weeks to go. He was behind in Florida. Ditto North Carolina. His deficit in Pennsylvania was nearly double digits.
So the question going into the St. Louis debate wasn't "Can Trump turn the race around?" He cannot. No, the question was: "Can Trump perform well enough to avoid being forced out before Election Day?"
The three men with the power to force Trump's hand are Pence, Ryan, and Priebus. And while none of them are foolish enough to think that Trump has a chance to be president, they may decide after tonight that pushing the self-destruct button on the party's presidential campaign is too risky; that it's better to try to ride out the storm.
Which means that there wasn't really a "winner" at the debate. Clinton was terrible. Trump was marginally worse. But the big loser was the Republican party. Because the worst-case scenario for November 9 is not that Hillary Clinton wins—again, that cake is baked. It's that if the party does not cut Trump loose, then Democrats also take over the Senate. And carry the House.
And then as it attempts to rebuild from the wreckage, the GOP remains buried under its shameful Trumpian legacy.
Posted by Ballard Burgher at Monday, October 10, 2016