My Politico column is about how it’s now mid-December and Trump looks nearly as unassailable as ever:
If there’s any lesson from Tuesday’s debate, it is that, six months after his entry into the Republican presidential race, no one has any better idea of how to handle Donald Trump than when he first got in.
Las Vegas highlighted how Trump has established an alpha dog dominance in the Republican field. He is not only the front-runner according to national polls, he’s a front-runner whom other candidates are literally afraid to criticize in his presence.
Everyone is happy to have his blessing. When Trump pronounced Ted Cruz “just fine” at the end of the debate, the Texas senator appeared as tickled as if he’d just won the Presidential Medal of Freedom or an Academy Award. Ben Carson seemed perfectly pleased to accept Trump’s compliment as “one of the finest men” — even though Trump had been denouncing him as pathological and a liar a couple of weeks earlier. Even Jeb Bush eagerly exchanged a low-five with the mogul during one of the early debates.
It is Bush, of course, who has taken it upon himself to constantly go after Trump in the debates, and it always ends in roughly the same way. Bush criticizes Trump and calls him unserious. Trump makes faces, then interrupts Bush to mock him in harshly personal terms and cite his low poll numbers. Bush calls Trump unserious some more. Trump interrupts and makes more faces.
Las Vegas was no different, even if Bush was more adept at grappling with Trump than he had been in past exchanges. It’s possible to imagine party elders finding Bush’s anti-Trump tack satisfying and brave, but it has gotten nowhere. If scolding Trump for being unserious, irresponsible, divisive and hurtful were the keys to bringing him down, Bush would have devastated Trump by now.