The Corner

Politics & Policy

Trump Won

For some time now, people who believe in the theory of Donald Trump’s inevitable demise have thought that he’d either say something so outrageous that voters would finally reject him or he’d perform so poorly in debates that voters would flee to more polished candidates. Well, it’s safe to say that the outrageous comments theory had been discredited, and — after tonight’s debate — it’s clear that Trump isn’t going to beat himself in direct competition with his colleagues.

Ten minutes into tonight’s debate, however, I wasn’t so sure. Ted Cruz demolished the birther question so effortlessly, so naturally, that I thought it was Cruz’s night. But then came the “New York values” question. Trump bested Cruz, and in doing so he subtly made a point that conservatives need to remember — we can’t and shouldn’t write off any part of America. By hearkening back to New York’s heart after 9/11, for a moment Trump transcended politics. How easily we forget, but for weeks after the terror attacks, New York was America. By the end of the exchange, Cruz was applauding and Trump was ascendant.

The bottom line? Going into the debate, Trump had a solid lead. There was nothing that happened to dissuade Trump’s followers. Indeed, he likely inspired the plurality that support him — persuading them that he’s ready for more debates, including an ultimate confrontation with Hillary Clinton.

As for the other leaders, Cruz had perhaps his best debate. The “birther” exchange showed that a good debater can mix knowledge with humor, and he sliced and diced Trump more effectively than any candidate in the race. But then he endured two withering attacks — first from Trump on the “New York values” question and then, later, from Rubio who dumped a massive amount of opposition research on Cruz in one devastating minute.

Finally, I like angry Rubio. As someone said on Twitter, you can make a smart person angry, but you can’t make an angry person smart. If he can slow down his delivery just a bit, then his natural eloquence is powerful when he makes a forceful argument. His argument on gun control was outstanding, as was his critique of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy. 

So far, it’s a Trump/Cruz/Rubio race, and this debate didn’t knock Trump from the top. He won, but his chief competitors performed well. The next few weeks will be interesting indeed.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Strzok by a Farce

An investigation is one of two things: a search for the truth, or a farce. The House is conducting a farce. That fact was on full display during ten hours of testimony by Peter Strzok, the logorrheic lawman who steered the FBI’s Clinton-emails and Trump–Russia probes. The principal question before the ... Read More


Dear Reader (Especially everyone who got ripped off ordering that giant blimp online), Imagine an alien race that built its civilization on the fact it literally defecated highly refined uranium, or super-intelligent and obedient nano-bots, or simply extremely useful Swiss Army knives. Now imagine one of ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Rise of the Abortion Cheerleaders

Is abortion a sad and unfortunate reality — regrettable, as we are sometimes told, but often necessary — or is it a breezy nothingburger, completely “normal,” and something to be giddily celebrated like a last-minute NFL touchdown?  For a long time, the abortion lobby has had difficulty deciding. This ... Read More
Film & TV

Stalin at the Movies

Toward the end of The Death of Stalin, two Communist Party bosses size up Joseph Stalin’s immediate successor, Georgy Malenkov. “Can we trust him?” one asks. “Can you ever really trust a weak man?” his comrade answers. Good question. Last week brought the news that the head of Shambhala ... Read More

‘The Warning Lights Are Blinking Red Again’

One of President Trump’s outstanding appointments has been Dan Coats, his director of national intelligence. Coats is a former House member, former senator, and former ambassador to Germany. He is a Hoosier (i.e., from Indiana). Whether he plays basketball, I don’t know. At Wheaton College, he played soccer. ... Read More