Last night’s debate was somewhat more substantive and not quite as childish as the previous debates, although it had its low moments, too. The one positive takeaway from the night was that everyone, including Donald Trump, reiterated their pledge to support the nominee of the Republican Party. That is a good thing.
The main target at the debate was the front-runner. Sometimes it can be strategic for candidates to go after the person in second or third place who may be holding them back or getting in their way. But we are at the point in the race where everyone is competing to be number one.
It appeared as though there was a division of labor last night with Marco Rubio going after Trump’s questionable businesses practices, i.e. Trump University, while Ted Cruz prosecuted Trump’s ideological inconsistencies.
I thought one of the more effective moments of the debate came when Cruz went after Trump’s outsider status. A lot of voters want an outsider. But for years, Donald Trump has been the consummate Manhattan “fat cat” big donor insider that grassroots activists rail against. Here are few key excerpts from Sen. Cruz:
I understand the folks who are supporting Donald right now. . . You’re angry at Washington, and he uses angry rhetoric. But for 40 years, Donald has been part of the corruption in Washington that you’re angry about. . . You’re not going to stop the corruption and the cronyism by supporting someone who has used government power for private gain. . .
Donald Trump supported Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan. Donald supported John Kerry over George W. Bush.
If you don’t like Obamacare, Donald Trump funded Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi taking over Congress to pass Obamacare.
On immigration, if you don’t like amnesty, if you don’t like the Gang of Eight, Donald Trump funded five of the eight members of the Gang of Eight — $50,000.
And let’s talk about this election. The choice Republican primary voters are making is who is best prepared to . . . beat Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump has written checks to Hillary Clinton not once, not twice, not three times. Ten times. . . . Donald Trump in 2008 wrote four checks to elect Hillary Clinton as president.
Previously, Rubio and Cruz have both pointed out that for years Trump described himself as strongly pro-choice, while now he says he is pro-life. That’s good — we want people to change from pro-choice to pro-life.
But when they do change, they usually have a convincing explanation. Perhaps it is because they saw their first child’s sonogram and realized the baby in the womb is a human being.
Maybe they had a religious conversion and, for the first time, fully appreciated that all life has dignity and worth. In short, they have some sort of “Road to Damascus” experience.
What raises eyebrows is when voters suspect someone has had a “Road to the Iowa Caucuses” conversion, which is a slender reed to count on once that person is in the White House.
The point I am making here is bigger than just the life issue. And it must be noted that there is no record of Donald Trump EVER voting in a Republican primary before. Nevertheless, he could end up being the Republican standard bearer this year.
Here’s my summary of where I think we are after last night’s debate: If John Kasich wins Ohio (he’s close) and Marco Rubio wins Florida (which won’t be easy), it is doubtful that Trump gets to the convention with enough delegates. If Kasich wins Ohio and Trump wins Florida, Trump will be in a better position, but it still isn’t a sure thing.
Gary L. Bauer served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration for eight years, as Under Secretary of Education and as President Reagan’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor.