Debate Grades: Trump Comes Out on Top


Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee, if tonight’s debate mattered at all.

That’s not because Trump was so stellar. It’s because the other candidates were apparently under the dramatic misimpression that they were competing for the Belle of the Miami Cotillion.

The goal of the other candidates was simple: demonstrate that Trump is unfit for the presidency. Nobody did that.

The debate was substantive and policy-driven. Boring, in other words. This entire debate cycle has been 11 on the Spinal Tap scale, and tonight’s debate felt like Kenny G by contrast. That helps the frontrunner, since comatose audiences do not switch their votes.

Here are the debate grades.

Trump: A. Trump gets an A not because he says anything of particular value (he never does) or because he has actual solutions (nope) or any basic principles (try again). He gets an A because he’s already winning. All he has to do is keep on winning and avoid a major slip-up. He did that tonight.

Yes, he said some completely idiotic things about the Israelis and Palestinians, for example – once again, he drew moral equivalence between the two sides. He sounded utterly incoherent on Cuba, and it’s clear he has no clue what sort of policy to pursue, so he fills the gap with inanities about making great deals. He said he’d be flexible on everything. Everything. So, Trump fans will continue to believe him, of course.

But he did have a couple of memorable lines. His best line – and the best line of the night – came while discussing the nature of Islam. When Tapper asked Trump whether all Muslims hate us, Trump answered, “I mean a lot of them.”

Ding ding ding.

Trump also made a strong electability case with regard to his dispossessed blue collar white voting base, and essentially wiped away both Ohio Governor John Kasich and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) from contention.

A good night for Donald Trump. He even seemed mildly disappointed he didn’t get to whip out his penis to prove its magnificence.

Cruz: B. Cruz didn’t do anything wrong, but he didn’t do much that was special, either. His only memorable line of the night came at the end, when he joked that America is an amazing country where the son of a dishwasher, the son of a bartender, the son of a mailman, and the son of a wealthy businessman can run for president. He had some good points about Social Security and free trade in particular, but policy talk at this point has become a snoozefest.

Far more important was what he didn’t do.

Cruz should have gone hard after Trump for his campaign manager’s assault on Breitbart News’s Michelle Fields. On Tuesday night, Corey Lewandowski reportedly grabbed Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields “tightly by the arm and yank[ing] me down,” according to Fields. Not only did Jake Tapper neglect to ask Trump a single question about the incident, instead swerving to a broader question about violent campaign rhetoric, Cruz didn’t bring it up either. Instead, he chose to attack Trump about his loyalty oaths. Dumb move, especially since after the debate, Trump accused Fields of lying directly, as did Lewandowski. Perhaps the strategy was to prevent Rubio from winning Florida in the hopes that he’ll drop out soon. But Trump is the frontrunner.

Rubio: B. Rubio, as always, has received major media plaudits for his performance. He was smooth, in command, and totally feckless at taking down Trump. He avoided Trump completely, after a debate in which he reduced Trump to defending his genital size. The turnabout was bracingly awkward. Rubio spoke fluidly about Cuba policy particularly, and about climate change, and about Israel, and about Iran.

No headlines.

No momentum.

Kasich: B. Kasich looked sane out there. He performed just as well as he has in the past, although he seemed downright embarrassed at having to argue that while the math doesn’t really foresee his nomination, “math isn’t everything in politics.” Yeah, when it comes to delegate count, it sort of is. Kasich didn’t damage himself, but he certainly didn’t vault into the top two.

So Trump is the prohibitive favorite going into Super Tuesday. For those who oppose Trump’s nomination, like me, it’s disheartening to realize that none of the other candidates on stage are capable of damaging this lying, bullying wreck of a candidate. But if they can’t beat him, they’ll be just as defunct as Trump Steaks this time next week.

Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News, Editor-in-Chief of, and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.


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