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Presidential Horse Race 2016: The unrepentant Donald

A mere few days after the stimulating first Republican debate in Cleveland, the buzz continues regarding several of the candidates – particularly Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina, but for different reasons.

Carly FiorinaFirst off, the debate itself was a huge success for Fox News, being seen by over 24 million Americans. That makes it the highest viewed non-sports related cable program of all time – and the highest rated cable news program ever.

Even the “Happy Hour” debate drew a respectable 6.1 million watchers – not bad.

Fox’s primetime viewership was over three times more than the highest rated Republican debate in either of the previous two cycles.

Why was the interest so intense? It seems like the “fight night” storyline pushed so hard by the media in the lead-up to the event drew in a lot of people. Media talkers were predicting a complete pile-on against Donald Trump – and that makes for good TV.

I doubt it was because they wanted to see Jeb Bush, put it that way.

Beyond Trump, it also could indicate, again, a serious frustration with the governing status quo – and it’s more than just conservative/Republican angst against Obama and Hillary Clinton. People are fed up with the poor leadership of both parties and are looking for alternatives.

They certainly won’t get it with Hillary. But will the eventual Republican victor go after the failed leadership of his (or her) own party?

Establishment Republicans have proven to be every bit as damaging to the concept of limited government as Obama and the Democrats. And people are fed up.

We’ll know soon whether the debate (and its aftermath) had any influence on the polls.

We cannot think of Trump in conventional terms

The fallout from Donald Trump’s debate showing continues. Trump criticized Fox News personality and debate moderator Megyn Kelly after the event and upped the ante on Friday with his “blood” comments. No need to repeat them here. This blog is not into political correctness, but even the least sensitive of commentators would agree Trump’s words were over the top.

Well, maybe not Howard Stern or Bill Maher. But we don’t care about their opinions.

As a result, Trump got himself uninvited from the respectable RedState gathering this weekend. As you saw from the Politco story, he then called Erick Erickson (of RedState) a “loser.”

Fellow Republican candidates criticized Trump for his remarks and a few called on him to apologize.

Carly Fiorina was very explicit in her support for Kelly.

Trump deserves high marks for his choosing to bring desperately needed attention to important political issues, but his comments on Kelly have nothing to do with politics. Picking a fight with a TV personality – woman or otherwise -- is, to use Trump’s own word, “stupid.”

We get that Trump employs a Michael Savage-like take-no-prisoners mentality. He says he doesn’t have time for political correctness. Fine, Donald. But voters should have the opportunity to assess the personalities of the candidates as well as their issue positions.

The Donald is just wrong on this one. He could arguably win more favor by showing a little contrition here – but don’t hold your breath (He confirmed Sunday that he won’t: “I will apologize if I’m wrong about something,” Trump said. “But I don’t like apologizing when I’m not wrong.”).

The real “winner” of the debate was Carly Fiorina. Is she breaking into the top tier?

As the only female candidate in the GOP race, Carly Fiorina stood out from the others. But her showing at the “Happy Hour” debate and subsequent interviews and appearances has people taking a much closer look than just at her gender.

Here, she does a complete smack-down of Chris Matthews. Hilarious.

Fiorina was also quite a hit at the RedState gathering. Here’s her speech there. Impressive, to say the least.

But before people get too excited, it’s helpful to remember that Fiorina, although new to the scene, isn’t a complete political neophyte. She ran for the Senate (in California) in 2010 and lost handily to Barbara Boxer.

For a Republican to lose in California doesn’t mean she’s not electable. But she also ran as more moderate during that race than she’s presenting herself as now. One note – Sarah Palin endorsed her in the Republican primary in 2010… so that’s a feather in her cap.

Carly’s great at beating up on the Democrats, but the fact that she can verbally lash Hillary won't convince skeptics that she’s the real deal. Mike Huckabee is also pretty good at zinging Hillary. If Fiorina starts going after Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, people will start believing.

Many conservatives are probably waiting for her to start highlighting the deep problems in her own party – and we’re not just talking about Jeb Bush (note: she often talks about the “political class” but doesn’t name names). The real political war isn't between the Republicans and Democrats. It's between the conservative country folk and the corporate loving Republican establishment.

It’s the Tea Party vs. country-clubbers who want to use the system to their advantage.

We have a Republican congressional leadership that isn't using its considerable power to fight Obama. The defund Planned Parenthood issue demonstrates it -- again.

For what it’s worth, here’s a look at how Fiorina’s surge is real. Time will tell.

Why no ganging up on Marco Rubio?

Sure, Donald Trump’s debate questions were tough and revealing. But why didn’t the Fox moderators question Marco Rubio about his leadership in the ‘Gang of Eight?’

Julia Hahn of Breitbart writes, “By not asking Rubio about the Gang of Eight bill, or anyone of the many controversies surrounding his involvement in the effort, Fox News delivered a big boon to the Rubio’s campaign. They effectively ensured that the millions of Americans watching from home and being introduced to Rubio for the first time would have no idea that he was involved in crafting the most expansive immigration bill since the one pushed by Ted Kennedy in 1965.”

Rubio’s debate showing was seen as positive by most observers. He was given a fairly soft set of questions… no wonder he did so well.

Jeb Bush takes the gloves off at RedState

Finally today, Jeb Bush revealed a different side of himself than the one he’s been showing in recent appearances.

“At the RedState Gathering on Saturday, Bush delivered passionate remarks and named his enemies: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump,” writes Ryan Lovelace of the Washington Examiner.

Jeb’s got his family’s immense baggage hanging over his every step. No wonder he appears to be getting a little frustrated.

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