I did watch Thursday’s Republican presidential debate but was too confused and demoralized to pass along any useful instant reaction. I’m checking the history books to see whether or not this was any precedent for a presidential candidate reassuring the nation that he has a large penis, as Donald Trump did Thursday night. I’m pretty sure it’s yet another of the historical firsts of this year’s campaign.
In my desperate effort to gain insight into what the heck that was, I confess I watched the Frank Luntz-led focus group on Fox. The focus groupies were all Republicans, about half of whom had come into the evening as Trump supporters. Luntz asked the nine focus groupies in the middle row to give a one-word reaction to the overall debate. Their replies:
- “Low on substance.” (Yes, I know that’s more than one word.)
- “Schoolyard brawl” (Yes, I know).
Luntz then asked the focusers — again, all Republicans — to raise their hands if they thought what they had just witnessed “helped the Republican Party.” None raised their hands.
After reminding viewers that about half had started the evening as Trump supporters, Luntz asked how many thought Trump had won the debate. Only one raised his hand. Then he asked how many thought John Kasich had won. About half of them raised their hands.
You could, if you were desperate to believe it, believe that this marks some kind of turn in the road. I’ll entertain that notion if it starts showing up in the polls, but until then, bear in mind what a small sample fits into a focus group.