Pick a word to describe the GOP debate

Donald Trump showing off the size of his hands as Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich look on during last night's debate.

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:

  • “Sophomoric.”
  • “Disappointing.”
  • “Shameful.”
  • “Despicable.”
  • “Angering.”
  • “Low on substance.” (Yes, I know that’s more than one word.)
  • “Disgusting.”
  • “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.

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/04/2016 - 03:03 pm.

    The number of people who admit to watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians” is vanishingly small, but the ratings say otherwise.


    Many Americans have a conflicted relationship with the media they watch.

    In particular, those who think of themselves as “cultured” tend to have a negative view of certain “low-brow” contemporary television shows. Scripted shows like Two and a Half Men and Reign are described as “banal” and “dumb,” while the latest crop of “trashy” reality shows – The Bachelorette, Keeping Up with the Kardashians – are to be enjoyed only by “hate-watching” them.

    Nonetheless, these very same shows are watched by millions of people each week.

    The popularity (and profitability) of reality TV has reshaped the landscape of television. In fact, many TV producers are purposely making “bad” shows to appeal to a certain type of viewer.


    (end quote)

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/04/2016 - 03:27 pm.

    Follow-up Questions

    Only one person thought Trump won the debate. How many of the Trump supporters present changed their minds because of his debate performance? How many were embarrassed to admit they thought Trump had won, after such an obnoxious spectacle?

    Trump is the leading contender because he is brash, vulgar, and offensive. These were the very qualities that were on display at the debate. Why should anyone be surprised that the other candidates would join his race to the bottom? It’s working, and you can’t argue with success. The only candidate not to join in the fracas, Governor Kasich, has little, if any, chance of winning. Trump is giving the voters what they want, whether those voters care to admit it or not.

  3. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 03/04/2016 - 03:33 pm.


    Another nail has been put in Ronald Reagan’s coffin by those who have revered him for decades. “Never speak ill of another Republican” died its final death last night. Reagan is not only dead, he turned over in his grave last night.

    GOP voters have been told for years by the likes of Fox (GOP) News, McConnell, Boehner, Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, etc., etc., that you don’t need to respect the Office of the President. This is what they get in return for all their misguided effort, an all-out infant war. There it was, on international television, the GOPs very finest on display for the whole world to observe and judge. Elementary kids act more mature than these clowns do. The oval office just won’t do it for these guys. There aren’t any corners in the oval office to send them to for detention. I didn’t think they could degrade the GOP more than they already have, but they have done it. Just when you think they have found the bottom of the barrel they find a new bottom by arguing about penis size and Trump saying he would order our troops to take illegal action with torture.

    So, I guess now the rule of law no longer exists in the GOP’s parallel universe. How can we possibly hold democracy up to the rest of the world as the example of governance to follow? When narcissism and con artistry are the guiding light the results can’t be good. They have spent some number of debates personally denigrating each other to the point that none of them are fit for the office of the presidency, but they all will support whichever one of them becomes the candidate. It must be GOP logic. Questions are asked and very few are actually answered. They are nothing but empty suits.

    Trump looks at the presidency as a CEO where he will tell everyone what to do, legal or not. The GOP punditry looks nothing but foolish trying to justify any of this. The GOP is a disaster without equal, but then, the GOP has earned it.

    The next GOP debate is March 10th. It will likely be a last man standing cage match. This summer’s GOP convention, in Cleveland Ohio, will be a ready for TV event too. That is where all the elite GOP politicians will have to stand on stage and say good words about one of these guys to make them sound good enough so voters will vote for them. I can’t wait to see who their Vice President candidate will be. Possibly Vince McMahon from the WWE. Ohio put your National Guard troops on standby now because GOP anarchy is about to burst onto the scene. The GOP is a real gift to the late night comedians.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/04/2016 - 05:41 pm.

      National Guard

      At first glance, the National Guard comment sounds like hyperbole. On second thought, it’s not so far fetched, is it? Not after the way the current campaign has gone. It’s already the most tumultuous election year since 1968.

  4. Submitted by Jim Million on 03/04/2016 - 05:31 pm.

    In a Word:


  5. Submitted by rolf westgard on 03/04/2016 - 05:44 pm.

    Word fro debate


  6. Submitted by charles thompson on 03/04/2016 - 06:35 pm.

    oh frank

    Thanks for the 68 reference, but this just a TV show.

  7. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/04/2016 - 06:49 pm.

    Try juvenile

    The Republican debates looks like a second grade schoolyard fight.

  8. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 03/04/2016 - 08:10 pm.

    Reality TV

    I don’t watch it.

    But I have one word: Flint.

    The debate was in Detroit. Did anyone mention it?

  9. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/04/2016 - 11:28 pm.

    like a landed fish…

    …flip, flop, flip flop…

    Trump’s bluster with respect to torture and killing civilians is no more. We just misunderstood what he said.


    So for all you Trump fans and haters, what else did you misunderstand??

    Does anyone know what his core beliefs really are ??


    Katrina Pierson, a Trump spokeswoman, said the candidate had been misunderstood.

    “He realized they took him literally, that’s why he put out the statement,” she told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”


  10. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/05/2016 - 09:54 am.

    The Trump phenomenon proves

    that supporting and electing an empty suit is not exclusive to democrats. The outrage and disbelief reminds me of what was said in 2008.

    But supporting and electing someone under FBI criminal investigation (and probably soon to be indicted) is new territory, made even more historical in that she’s also the first presidential candidate whose spouse was impeached and also the only president who was successfully sued while in office.

    Some great history trivia for the cocktail parties 50 years from now.

  11. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 03/05/2016 - 10:47 am.

    Vainglorious self-aggrandizement

    The winner is he who brays loudest.

  12. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 03/05/2016 - 11:40 am.

    Win or lose hope hangs in there still for Bernie Sanders…

    It’s difficult to understand the Republican mind even recognizing the finger-play of Trump whose sense of the absurd is so far removed from political and world issues that face the nation at this time…if Trump has anything to work with besides a pathetic overload of self love why is he still given word space so abundantly by the media even?

    Money is power in this country and so adored by those who have or those who worship it… maybe we as a nation have that wanton capacity to deny, forget that we live in a greater world, so absorbed in the silly state of our present campaigning style – that’s what it has become, and guess what, blanks out any of the real issues?

    Could just be foreign policy is a plaything for Joe Blow the voter maybe…we care for no one but our own economy and to H with everybody else?

    Our copy-cat news resources are folding and community news washes away the Real, eh?

    Couple of good analyses on Axis Of Logic that can shake one up a bit but they talk of the real not titillating play-news, such as Pepe Escobar looks at the harsh light of this “Empire of Chaos’ and Ramsy Baroud has given quality words fine respect for the forgotten Palestinian?

    We need to see the way others see us…believe it or not and remember too, ” Superpower” is a label we lost long ago,,,and can you believe it, finger games by one ego-ridden power broker has no answers?

    …Can’t figure out why republicans – and a know a few who aren’t too happy lately – why they passed up Kasich…because he sounds and acts like what an alternative conservative party once called a Republican did once represent? No, not my cup of brew but he’s a good fellow and cannot forget the shock and awe on his face listening to his fellow party boys and the mongrel-mood; wild rhetoric that filled those Republican debates?

    But then again,t who am I to say from the “unafilliated left” as the late great poet/philosopher Tom McGrath used to say?

    Ah yes, could be… is that all there is… watch Trump play with his fingers? Not much else that’s for darn sure…amen, whatever.

  13. Submitted by Jim Million on 03/05/2016 - 02:55 pm.

    Not even well-staged vaudeville…

    but only televised “burlesque.”

  14. Submitted by Howard Miller on 03/06/2016 - 04:46 pm.

    the word is …


  15. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 03/07/2016 - 08:57 am.

    David Brooks: two words

    “If we going to get Trump, we might as well get the Nuremberg Rallies…” on Meet the Press Sunday morn…

    Could say, that’s a big stretch coming from Brooks?

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/07/2016 - 01:29 pm.

    I’m actually encouraged by this…

    It’s clear demonstration that these viewers at least are more thoughtful and honest than the candidates. That’s encouraging in my book.

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