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Fox goes after Donald Trump and gives Carly Fiorina the big rave

REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Donald Trump answering a debate question as fellow candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker looks on.

Yikes. Lincoln and Douglas have nothing to worry about.

After too many hours watching too many Republican candidates across two debates, I’m exhausted and depressed. So I’ll just give you some bulletins:

It’s possible that the Great Trump Scare of 2015 is over, or at least that Thursday night’s GOP debate in Cleveland marked the beginning of the end. Donald Trump was awful. Of course, it’s natural that I would think that, but Fox News had Frank Luntz empanel one of his focus groups and most of those who entered the evening as Trump backers were no longer on board that train when the evening ended.

If Trump is indeed going to shrink, the Fox News crowd seemed to have played a heavy role. The very first question in the “Top 10” debate asked that any of the candidates who were not prepared to support the eventual Republican nominee and who would not promise to forego an independent candidacy must raise his hand. Trump was the only one who raised his hand, which was quite predictable since he has previously on several occasions refused to make that promise and has held out the possibility that he might run as an independent.

Trump confronted

Moderator Bret Baier then confronted Trump with the possibility that such a decision might increase the chances of a Democrat winning the election. Trump said yes, he understood, but he still refused to take the pledge “at this time,” he said, until he sees who gets nominated instead of him.

In the post-debate coverage, when Luntz questioned his focus group about why they had turned against Trump, this seemed to be the big moment (although, in truth, Trump seemed to shrink to mortal proportions over the course of the night as it became obvious that he was not particularly versed on many issues).

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly “asked” Trump about the fact that he has publicly referred to various women as “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals.” Trump, in defense, said that “the big problem this country has is being politically correct.”

Every Republican who spoke about it opposes the deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Several said they would void the deal with an executive order, some on the first day they took office. Trump’s response to the question about the Iran deal went like this: “We have a president who doesn’t have a clue. I would say he’s incompetent, but I won’t do that because it’s not nice.”

Every Republican who has a tax plan wants to dramatically lower the top marginal income-tax rate. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (who participated in the early debate for those who didn’t poll in the top 10) wants a flat tax of 20 percent on everyone (he’s calling it the “20-20 perfect vision for America”), which would cut taxes on the rich and raise them on the poor.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson actually favors a 10 percent tax on everyone (“if you make $10 billion, you pay $1 billion; if you make $10, you pay $1”), which would be a tax cut for almost everyone, but he didn’t say anything about making up the lost revenue. He called his plan “tithing” and said it was God’s plan. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee wants to do away with the income tax entirely and finance the government with sales taxes.

Carly Fiorina’s moment

The Fox crowd also seemed very excited about former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. She didn’t make the cut to the main stage but participated in the earlier debate with the seven poll losers. Personally, I thought seven losers were about as impressive as the 10 winners, but I didn’t notice anything special about Fiorina’s answers compared to the others. But the Fox instant-analysis experts raved about her performance in the post-debate coverage.

In a weird segment where the moderators of the headliner debate were schmoozing live on camera with the top 10 candidates whose debate they were about to moderate, Kelly actually told the assembled candidates that they were lucky they didn’t have to face Fiorina because during the early debate Fiorina had “opened up a can of … [pause while searched for the perfect word, then she came up with] something.”

And a final observation: Huckabee introduced an idea I hadn’t heard before for getting around the abortion rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. He suggested that, as president, he would invoke the Fifth and 14th Amendment rights of the unborn children to “equal protection” of the laws and to their rights not to be deprived of their lives without due process. “The Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being,” Huckabee explained.


A couple of morning after addenda:

*Trump went after Megyn Kelly on Twitter overnight, calling her a bimbo (that was a retweet) among other things. He also attacked Frank Luntz, who ran the focus group, suggesting that Luntz had chosen a Trump-hating focus group because Trump had rejected him years ago when Luntz wanted some consulting work.

*Trump said “our system is totally broken” because when candidates accept money from candidates, they always do the donors bidding. His practice, he said, is to give to every politician who asks him and then, “when I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.” Then one of the moderators asked what favors he had received in exchange for the donations he had given to Hillary Clinton. He replied: ” Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why? She didn’t have a choice because I gave.”

Here’s a transcript of the “top ten” debate.

Comments (23)

  1. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/07/2015 - 08:55 am.

    Fiorina bump?

    538 reported that Google analytics showed a Fiorina bump during & following the debate. The search vole for her is apparently dwarfed by Trump interest. What analytics don’t tell us is whether the searches represent serious interest or entertainment.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 08/08/2015 - 07:25 am.

      Along the same lines . . . .

      There’s a lot of crowing about how the viewership for the debate has blown previous primary debate viewership records out of the water. In fact, of course, that’s because people were hoping to see more Trump outlandishness on display rather than from any genuine political interest.

      On the other hand, the observation has been made that the other candidates probably benefited from this because even though viewers may have tuned in for the Trump entertainment value, they were then exposed to candidates that they may have otherwise been unaware of.

      Mixed bag, I guess.

  2. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 08/07/2015 - 09:01 am.


    One thing I can say about Trump is that he’s consistently distasteful. The others were pretty much all over the board–just wishy-washy in their distastefulness.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 08/07/2015 - 11:31 am.

      “wishy-washy in their distastefulness.”

      That could be on a tee shirt, Rachel. It could certainly be taken as part of the ideological tenet of what passes for conservatism these days. What struck me about these people is their continuous state of outrage about everything. They just seem like miserable people who are intensely bitter at being forced to live in a society that continues to progress beyond their parochial viewpoint of the world.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/08/2015 - 10:07 am.


        “is their continuous state of outrage about everything”

        Now who are you describing? The far Right or the far Left? 🙂

        Examples: Too Much Fracking, To much Carbon, To few government handouts (ie Healthcare, Welfare, Education, etc), Too many Rich people, Too few regulations, Too little oversight, Too many religious freedoms, Too much military, Not pardoning Illegal immigrants, Too low of incomes, etc)

        Being just right of middle, I think both sides seem equally outraged. It is amazing that all these folks choose to continue living in America, and that billions would love to live here.

        I just keep Thanking God that I was born here in this excellent free crazy country with so many opportunities !!!

  3. Submitted by Bill Willy on 08/07/2015 - 09:38 am.

    Anything? Anyone?

    Can anyone point to one statement, one idea, one anything in Eric’s report (or, if anyone has the capacity to actually read it, the transcript, or any other source) that indicates any of the best and brightest Republicans have to offer has put forward anything that should inspire the belief their presidency would be good for America, or qualifies as a reason to vote for them?

  4. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 08/07/2015 - 10:08 am.


    I seldom watch Fox since it is so decidedly biased but I tuned in last night since it promised to be the only funny show on TV before the 10 PM Stewart finale. What first struck me was how openly biased this network is: all the Republican Love. I guess I’m used to debates with neutral speakers and differing points of view. Except for the little exchange on data collection the only differences were in the words chosen to express the same opinions except for Trump’s opening acknowledgement that he wouldn’t support any nominee but himself.

    Here’s what I don’t get and why I don’t see how any intelligent, aware person can support these people. When the last Republican president left office we were in an unneeded war, which led to more troubles in the middle east, we were entering a great recession caused by Republican banking and Wall Street policies, and the debt had skyrocketed under the Republican administration. So after eight years of slowly recovering from that nightmare all these people can talk about is how bad off the country is now and how we are headed in the wrong direction.

    While they were all busy talking about their phony ideas for “prosperity” I would have liked to hear one honest journalist ask, “If your ideas are so good why are the states that are fully implementing them, like Kansas and Wisconsin, doing so poorly economically. But obviously the crowd there was more interested in attacking women and their rights and any nation that dares to not surrender to America.

    I liked Trump’s “proof” that the Mexican government is sending rapists and murderers to the US. He talked to a couple border guards and that’s what they thought. Sounds like the kind of “intell” Bush used to start the Iraq war.

    How can so many people swallow that bunk?

  5. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 08/07/2015 - 12:36 pm.

    You’re fired!

    As the Republican propaganda machine, Fox News decided to scapegoat Trump for his crazy ideas and bad attitude, largely leaving the other candidates to spout their talking points without challenge. For Fox, it was totally in keeping with its deceitful “fair and balanced” claim. Not that I have much sympathy for Trump, but are his ideas all that much different from the candidates that Fox and the billionaires would like to run? Take Walker for example. Even with softball question, he showed little or nothing. In a debate, the moderators are not supposed to show bias, but that was all that came through. I cannot imagine Fox ever providing moderators for a debate involving both parties, given that it cannot even keep from playing favorites among the Republicans.

  6. Submitted by Ann Spencer on 08/07/2015 - 12:59 pm.

    No there there

    I was struck at how utterly stale, uncreative, unimaginative and unrealistic all these guys’ policy “ideas” were. I know the name of the game at this point is to avoid specifics, lest they be picked apart, but what a barrage of platitudes, talking points, and shopworn catch phrases. On the economy: several versions of cutting taxes at the top and substituting regressive flat taxes or sales taxes, deregulation, “getting government out of the way”. On defense: more American intervention, everywhere, more military spending, projecting “strength.” Oppose the Iran nuclear deal, but no satisfactory answer to “what then?” Walker lamely finished his answer with “convince our allies to reimpose sanctions.” Good luck with that! Repeal Obamacare, but no proposal to replace it. Outdo each other on pro-life until Walker actually appeared to favor letting the mother die if that’s what it takes.

    I’m not a Chris Christie fan, but at least he seems to living in the real world. Agree or disagree with him on entitlement reform, he’s addressing a genuine issue with some specifics. Contrast that with Huckabee’s pandering and nonsensical response: it’s not the recipients’ fault the government has been stealing their money, and we should tax pimps and prostitutes to pay for Social Security. What?

    My husband is a Republican (life at our house is interesting!) and I kept asking him last night to what extent these guys actually believe what they’re saying. Does Jeb Bush, for instance, really believe we can achieve 4% growth as far as the eye can see? No one else does, especially economists. He didn’t know, either. We split a big bowl of popcorn.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/07/2015 - 02:31 pm.

      previously noted…

      “The 2016 Media Election began sometime this Spring. The People’s Election begins next August.”

      Forget this stuff unless you are into sports, because that’s what you’re watching now. Also remember these shows are probably more for the network ratings than the candidate platforms…certainly this August.

      All TV sports go better with popcorn. Good decision!!

  7. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 08/07/2015 - 02:07 pm.

    Written before the debate – it came true

    The Thursday debates will be a night full of softball questions and Republican wisdom. Pay attention as any statements of wisdom will be brief. There will be a boatload of criticism without any of their ideas on how to fix anything. Ten Republican candidates all trying to make a name for themselves, not offend Donald Trump, and look presidential. I suspect several of them are going to have a hard time containing themselves. Good luck Megyn Kelly! The Republican circus continues.

  8. Submitted by Jim Million on 08/07/2015 - 02:38 pm.

    Big Tent?

    And, very many people purchased tickets to this event. At least the Democrat show will be more like a European circus…only one ring, you know. Should be weird: Three TV personalities questioning two candidates.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/07/2015 - 03:03 pm.

      Two Candidates?

      There are actually five candidates running for the nomination. Extra points if you can name the other three (besides Clinton and Sanders) without looking them up

  9. Submitted by Thomas Heyd on 08/07/2015 - 02:40 pm.


    it seems that Fox News had a double agenda:
    1. Bump the Trump (once we get rid of him we can deal with the serious candidates)
    2. Promote Carly F. To Vice President status.
    It will take a few days to see how successful they were.

  10. Submitted by Jim Million on 08/07/2015 - 03:57 pm.

    How’s 2 out of 3?

    Chafee and O’Malley I knew; although, I relegate them to a second tier, as FNC did with seven.

    Had to check for #3, forgetting Jim Webb had officially entered a month ago. I’ve always liked him and his background and style. I’d certainly put him in the upper tier to make the show 3 on 3.


    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/07/2015 - 04:06 pm.

      Not Bad!

      I doubt most people would have gotten that many.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/07/2015 - 09:54 pm.

        One tries to keep up

        In my verification of Webb’s status, I ran across two Dem-side polls of 8/5 placing the three aforementioned gentlemen from a scant 0-2%.

        Those polls also showed Joe Biden (although undeclared) running well ahead of them: 5% in one, 12% in the other.

        Of course, none of these numbers mean much of anything now, except to media people assigned the election beat or political junkies, who likely need many more meaningful activities right now.


  11. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 08/07/2015 - 06:26 pm.

    “Is that all there is?”……

    Not a great party expose:
    Call it the ultimate show-and-tell platform performance, exposed like one crazy spelling bee with candidates trying to spell D E M O C R A C Y?

    “Is that all there is” the old Peggy Lee refrain could make a great party theme song?

    The best one can say about Trump…at least he didn’t kick his heels and do a one arm salute…but that may come later if enough slow-blow followers are sucked into his offensive dramatics?

    He won’t be using Jewish people as his scapegoat, but looks like immigrants and women will be his point of attack?

    Fox isn’t Nuremberg, no, but… but he has his ambitions I suppose?

    If you run across Joseph Roth’s book; his stroll through Berlin, “What I Saw…Reports from Berlin 1920-1933”. You may think otherwise but does leave this one, wondering ?

    …and do remember, also, the ‘Question’ is an active verb? Cheers.

  12. Submitted by joe smith on 08/08/2015 - 08:27 am.

    I’m sure all 26 million only tuned in to see Trump, it couldn’t be after the leaderless past 6 1/2 yrs Americans are looking for a change. Jimmy Carter said we do not have a relationship with one country better than when Obama took over, Jimmy is not a Fox News reporter last I looked. Russia has run roughshod over us ever since they took part of Ukraine they felt was valuable and we said “please stop”and wouldn’t even give Ukrainians weapons to push back. We did however give billions to countries that hate us. China and Russia have been hitting us with cyber attacks steady with total impunity. That may be bothersome to a few voters. Let’s see the number for the Dem debate between a socialist and Hillary. I have a feeling it won’t hit 26M.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 08/10/2015 - 07:37 pm.

      JS Facts is facts, truth is truth:

      Dow Jones: 3/2009: 6,626.94, 8/2015: 17,615.17 (almost triple, big failure)
      NASDAQ: 3/2009: 1,293.85, 8/2015: 5,101.8 (almost quadrupled, another big failure)
      S&P 500: 3/2009: 683.38, 8/2015: 2,104.18 (almost quadrupled, another big failure)
      Unemployment: 2009-2010: ~ 10%, 8/2015: ~ 5.5 % (Almost 50% lower, really a failure)
      Foreclosure rates: The rate of seriously delinquent loans is at a 7-year low (Consumer affairs) (Terrible news)
      Iraq US Soldier death toll: 2003-2009: 4371, 2009-2015: 121 (Disaster deaths are down over 360%)

      Look at all those failures!

      Cyber attacks: What do suggest: The nuclear option? Another shock and awe against both countries at the same time?
      Russia rough shod, meaning? : USA GDP $16.77T/$53,004/Capita, Russia: $2.097T, $14,611 per capita. China: $9.24T, $6,807/Capita. Yep we are getting our GDP handed to us on a platter!
      Terrible numbers, our GDP is only ~ 8X Russia , our per capita is only ~7-8 X China more disaster!

      Foreign aid ~ 1% of the budge in ($000,000): Afghanistan ~ $4.5, Israel, $2.96, Egypt $1.566, Jordan $1.212 (Yep all those folks just hate us!)

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 08/14/2015 - 01:50 am.


      1) Carter said in the same speech that it wasn’t Obama’s fault
      2) Carter was wrong, as are you. The U.S. is more respected in the world under Obama than under Bush.

  13. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/09/2015 - 04:26 pm.

    NBC poll of R voters

    Trump 23
    Cruz 13
    Carson 11
    Fiorina 8
    Rubio 8

    Can’t see the Bush for the trees….

  14. Submitted by Todd Piltingsrud on 08/10/2015 - 09:06 am.

    I’m a trump fan

    He’s the best thing that could’ve happened to the democratic party. I’m hoping he runs as an independent when the Republican Party boys finally manage to oust him from their ranks.

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