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GOP Debate Ten

Rubio and Cruz misunderstand Trump, so their attacks are ill-targeted. While they may fire up their own voters, they probably won’t make Trump’s supporters care.

Rubio thinks he finally hit the piñata. But, come Super Tuesday, he’ll still be looking for the candy. Cruz tried to pin the donkey on Trump’s tail, but he’ll be lucky to come out with a win in Texas.

Why? They slammed Trump on all sorts of issues, from his labor practices to his business practices to the fact that he (also) repeats himself. Why won’t Trump just fall down like a regular politician?

The problem is, Rubio and Cruz think Trump is a regular politician. They think his rhetoric is the same weak sauce that politicians have peddled for years. But they’ve made a grave error in not hearing Trump clearly. They have failed to understand why Trump is winning, and attacking him (at least, as they have) is not the best way to stop him.

Trump does appeal because of his bravado, but there’s more to it than that. This is a Republican candidate that actually says Planned Parenthood does positive things for women. If Rubio or Cruz said that, they’d be kaput. But Trump says it from a different place. He says it and it comes off as honest and without the strings attached to things that politicians say.

Then Rubio and Cruz attack him for holding what they paint as a negative, the people just don’t take it to heart. Because the attack assumes that you already disagree with Trump, which his supporters don’t.

But Planned Parenthood is small potatoes compared to Trump’s real issues, and Cruz and Rubio have failed to attack those or co-opt them. Big issues like trade deficits, sure, but the biggest issue that Trump rallies people with is: Trump acknowledges that people are getting a raw deal in a very specific way.

Like Sanders, Trump is pointing at corruption of money in politics. But he’s also pointing at trade. He’s pointing at illegal immigration. He’s not the Great Oz, but he’s Dorothy telling everyone that the Great Oz—the American Dream—is just a humbug from Omaha. That the rally cry of the Republicans has been a big stage show.

To Trump supporters, Cruz and Rubio are just a couple of winged monkeys, swooping and screeching. The traditional Republican line isn’t a good fit.

Via Politico: 25 February 2016: “11 most interesting moments of the GOP debate”:

Rubio accused Trump of having just five lines. “Everyone’s dumb, he’s going to make America great again. Win, win, win. He’s winning in the polls. And the lines around the states,” Rubio said, mocking the front-runner. “Every night. Same thing.”

The problem with Rubio’s attack is that he underestimates the key lines:

  • Everyone’s dumb
  • Make America Great Again
  • Win, win, win

That everyone includes Rubio. Trump claims that the whole damn system is distorted, and it’s hard to disagree with that, even if you do disagree about how he’ll probably try to fix it. But folks like Rubio and Cruz don’t make that case. Cruz tries a little, but still falls back on agreement with the establishment too often to be believed.

Those three lines (the poll thing—bravado; the lines around the states is not one of Trump’s greatest hits—a b-side at best) all say basically the same thing: “Hey, voter, these guys [China, Mexico, Obama, the establishment, etc.] are taking you for a ride. I want to stop that from happening and make them pay.”

Cruz and Rubio just say, “Obama is taking you for a ride, so replace him with a Republican rider.” And, as long as they do, they will have a very hard time, attacks be damned, of making inroads with Trump supporters.

Or I’m wrong. We’ll find out Tuesday.

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