Huffington Post, Mashable, the Guardian, and E! Online (among others) have done you a favor and told you how Fox News or Megyn Kelly was the real winner of the debate. Hurr durr. Thing is, no one’s going to vote Fox News for president, so who gives a shit if they successfully bated millions of viewers (including yours truly) into watching ten buffoons take pot shots at each other? What’s important is figuring out which clown is now a step closer to getting on the ticket, even if we’re still fifteen months out.
A large number of pundits are going with Rubio, who I admit had a commanding stage presence, and he was able to deftly address the immigration issue without having to tackle Trump directly. But I have to say, if anything’s been clear this election cycle, it’s that conservatives are fed up with the current system as much as Dems are, meaning they’re tired of professional politicians who use the debates as a way to audition for large donors’ attention through prescribed talking points rather than engage in real talk. They’re tired of lily-livered quaverers like Jeb Bush and feel betrayed by their own network, Fox. What I mean is that the debate setup itself—hosting a Republican debate sponsored by Fox News with Fox News pundits as moderators—further feeds the deep suspicion lots of people have. That Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace intentionally and repeatedly targeted Trump (probably at the behest of real-life dreadnaught Roger Ailes) not only shatters the illusion of the network being ‘fair and balanced,’(we know it isn’t, but its viewers believed so, which was important for Fox) it cemented the idea that Fox News is partisan, not ideological, meaning they’re not real conservatives (duh) and instead have an agenda of little difference with oh-so-liberal bastions such as CNN.
But more than anything, the regular Joes commenting online have made it very clear they don’t want any professional political pundits telling them who won the debate, especially considering they think Kelly and crew did a hack job akin to Candy Crowley’s handling of the Obama/Romney debate in ’12 and that MSNBC would have been less biased than Fox. (Biased, in this case, means that the moderators asked pointed questions to the candidates about stupid things they’ve said or ridiculous things they’ve proposed—i.e., holding their feet to the fire, albeit in a rather infotainmenty way.) Just take a look at what people are saying on Liz Peek’s piece on how Trump lost the debate. Or what people have to say about The Hill’s aggregation of opinions. Here’s a few samples if you can’t bear to do it yourself:
“You GOP establishment guys still don’t get it. Fox lost, Megyn Kelly destroyed herself, and establishment candidates looked terrible. Cruz won, Trump showed the relationship between Fox and the GOPe/thus he also won. Jeb looked uneasy with himself and his answers. Rubio offered nothing but a pretty face the GOPe think they can control.”
“The REAL LOSER in this debate was FOX NEWS, MEGAN WHINER KELLY and the other IDIOT that hosts FOX NEWS SUNDAY. I really felt I was watching this coverage on MSNBC. I have been a Fox watcher and Kelley fan since it’s inception, well they have just lost a avid viewer. FOX News showed last nite that they are now in the Lefties Major Media Pocket. What a shame. I wonder if KELLEY can still state that Fox News is Fair & Balanced ?? Kelley belongs in the same context as ROSIE.”
“Fox News just joined MSNBC. Megan is done, her career is finished.”
“I thought [Trump] did a good job. I liked that he had no problem saying that the current political system is such that you pay to play.”
“I thought it was sickening how they went after Trump and I’m very disappointed in Meghan Kelly”
In response to that last one:
“Fox is pushing the “establishment candidates” but it’s NOT gonna work this time.”
And if that’s not enough to convince you that the way pundits want to swing this isn’t resonating with the proles, check out this poll from Slate asking who won the debate. Trump leads with 38%. Slate too progressive/hipster/metacontrarian for you to believe its results? Then weep at Drudge Report’s near-600,000-person poll that overwhelmingly supports Trump with 44.67%. In second place? Ted Cruz with 14.31%.
With such a long road ahead and another round of debates hosted by CNN coming in September, there’s no point in seriously discussing who won and lost. If the pundits are right and Rubio’s stock rises, he’ll become everyone’s target, and only then, when he’s attempted to handle the hurls as best he can, will we be able to see whether he’s got the guts to survive. That’s why I don’t think Trump was hurt—he already knows he won’t be president, and we’re all aware that he can deal with criticism, even if it’s in his own perverse, crass, and despicable way. Right now he seems unstoppable, and every time Fox or anyone else tries to corner him, he lashes back, and people are eating it up.
What a strange, sad world.