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The Bush News Network Tries To Take Out Trump

The big question that polls and pundits will be trying to answer after Thursday’s Fox News Republican presidential nomination debate was probably not who had the best answer on how to deal with the existential threats facing this country.

Trump Cruz JebIt is, “did Fox succeed in letting the air out of the Donald Trump for President balloon?” (See our article "Ted Cruz Announces – Jeb Bush Goes Silent, Or Does He?" for why we sometime refer to Fox as the Bush News Network.)

The opening question was a hit on Trump: “Is there anyone on stage, and can I see hands, who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person?”

Trump, as Fox anchor Brett Baier well-knew, was the only one who would refuse to commit to supporting the Republican nominee – whoever that might be – he’d already said he might run as an independent if he wasn’t treated fairly.

Similarly, Megyn Kelly’s first round “war on women” question was more of an anti-Trump infomercial than a question:

Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don't use a politician's filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women… You've called women you don't like "fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals." Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?

Trump’s answer that “It was only Rosie O’Donnell” got the audience on his side, but Kelly assumed the prosecutorial tone that has now become her trademark and refused to let it go until she made her intended point that according to the rules the establishment media imposes upon political candidates Donald Trump is an unelectable male chauvinist.

Likewise, Chris Wallace’s insistence on “proof” that the government of Mexico is “sending criminals -- rapists, drug dealers, across the border” was an insistence on factual corroboration that was required of no other candidate during the debate, especially Jeb Bush.

Bush was given a free pass on his claims about being a fiscally conservative governor as he touted his record of cutting taxes with no mention that on Jeb Bush’s watch Florida state spending ballooned by 52 percent, from $48.6 billion in 1999 to $73.9 billion in 2006.**And state expenditures per capita rose from $2,809 in 1999, to $3,942 in fiscal year 2006-2007.

We could, by the way, also include Chris Christie and John Kasich in the same corroboration-free zone on their answers about their budget and spending records as Governors. (See our article “The Big Government Four” for more on the spending records of some of the candidates.)

But in our small unscientific focus group of debate watchers Trump lost some of his shine not on the factual content of his answers, but on his general demeanor.

People liked his answers about political correctness, “I don't frankly have time for total political correctness.” And they liked his answer to the question criticizing his tone, “But when you have people that are cutting Christians' heads off, when you have a world that the border and at so many places, that it is medieval times, we've never -- it almost has to be as bad as it ever was in terms of the violence and the horror, we don't have time for tone. We have to go out and get the job done.”

But, next to the studied poker faces and (most of the time) careful language of the others on the stage our debate watchers began to have a harder and harder time featuring Donald Trump as their President – and maybe the point of some of the questions was to let Trump simply be himself and suffer the comparison to the professional politicians.

The Trump campaign, and Trump’s meteoric rise in the polls, is as CHQ Chairman Richard A. Viguerie said, not so much about Donald Trump as it is about “sending THEM a message.” And THEM is the Republican establishment and the Washington political class in general.

The problem for the Republican establishment and the DC political class is that Trump’s rapid rise in the polls is not about Trump – it’s about his message – and no one came away from last night’s debate saying, “well Trump was his usual bombastic self, so I guess I’ll abandon him and vote for Jeb Bush.”

Fox may have achieved the goal of taking the shine off the Trump candidacy, but if Trump’s voters decided, based on his performance last night, that they need to look somewhere else for a candidate to carry their message of dissatisfaction with the Republican leadership and the Washington status quo, they need look no further than Ted Cruz for a more polished and equally anti-establishment messenger.

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Shame on Fox, shame, shame, shame.