By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A good night for Bush and a bad one for Trump

I hadn’t expected to watch Thursday night’s Republican debate. But it turned out to be available on my flight to San Fransciso, my credit card was twitching in my hand, and so…

For what it’s worth, I thought Jeb Bush was the winner and Donald Trump the loser. There were three adults on stage: Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich. Christie positioned himself as a bad man for bad times, ready to cut your Social Security and take away your civil liberties, and that never appeals to voters. He certainly got the better of it stylistically with Rand Paul, but I suspect most Americans like the idea that the government can’t spy on you without a warrant.

Which leaves Bush and Kasich. Both were calm, amiable and, in my view, quite appealing. But Kasich, the governor of Ohio, seemed more like the guy who should be welcoming the candidates to his home state, not an actual candidate. Bush seemed happy to be there and fundamentally optimistic in his outlook. He made no obvious errors. It was the biggest event of the campaign so far, and he did well.

Now I realize that Trump has made a shameful and shameless buffoon of himself on numerous occasions, and his poll numbers have only gone up. But I thought the Fox News moderators did an excellent job of forcing him to talk about the fact that he’s not much of a Republican or a conservative. Not that he cared — he responded to everything with his usual bluster. But that, more than a litany of offensive Trumpisms, is going to take a toll on his campaign. He could run as an independent, of course, but I strongly suspect he’ll be a much-diminished figure six months from now.

The post-debate punditry seemed to focus on Marco Rubio. I agree that he didn’t embarrass himself, but he struck me as stiff and overly prepared in the manner of someone who was a little too young and inexperienced to be up there.

Of the rest, Scott Walker disappeared into a miasma of blandness, Ted Cruz should disappear, Rand Paul failed to meet even the extremely low level of plausibility set by his father (although, as I said, I’m mostly with him on civil liberties and his opposition to foreign intervention) and Ben Carson made me wonder what all the fuss was about two years ago.

And Mike Huckabee is just a hate-mongering disgrace.


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  1. As I couldn’t stand to watch the debate, I appreciate your summary, Dan. Thank you. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen a few of Governor Kasich’s TV ads on local TV, and my gut thinks he’s the best of the bunch. However, my brain knows that I’m a Democrat, and I want to say that during Bo Biden’s funeral, I thought, I’ll bet he could run for president. — Roberta Hirshson

  2. Aaron Read

    As mentioned elsewhere, this is a sane and reasoned analysis of an insane and unreasonable event that panders to an insane and unreasonable electorate. I don’t think any of what you say really can be applied to the howling monkey crowd that makes up the hefty majority of GOP primary voters.

    • Peter Sullivan

      Aaron, can you really be that big of a liberal douche that you think that the majority of Republican voters are insane, unreasonable and resemble howling monkeys ???? I am not sure Donald Trump has insulted Mexicans to the level that you have just insulted Republicans….

      • Rick Peterson

        Remember where you are. These folks are thoughtful,albeit usually far left.This is Boston, not America.

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