Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

Trump Didn’t Win

The Republican front-runner met stiffer resistance in the second GOP debate.

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A Drudge snap poll shows that Trump won the debate by a landslide. Though Drudge is generally perceived as a conservative site, but it's possible Democrats participated, because Trump is their favorite candidate — the one they are sure they can beat. CNN, for its part, worked assiduously to make the debate all about Trump: he had the most air time, was permitted to interrupt the other candidates time and again, and was the subject of many questions to the other candidates.

But Trump did not win the debate. He was constantly red-faced, but especially so when Carly Fiorina went after him. Moderator Jake Tapper gave Trump the lion’s share of attention and limited the time allotted to the other candidates, but Fiorina, when she was given a chance to speak, hit Trump as hard, if not harder, than any of the others on the stage. She even rattled off detailed defense objectives in a very convincing tone. Trump seemed to avoid articulating numbers, whether in relation to defense, or anything else. He was noticeably silent about the cost of his immigration proposals which launched his campaign.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush became animated when Trump accused his brother of jeopardizing the nation’s safety, and from that point on, was no longer willing to play Mr. Nice Guy to the New York bully. His self-styled nickname “Eveready” (like the battery) and even his admission to smoking pot, all demonstrated an ability to be comfortable in his own skin that Trump, standing next to him, could not match. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio outshone Trump on foreign and national security policy, showing that national security demands more than bluster. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie likewise dealt with substance, while also demonstrating that he could stand up to the liberals who dominate politics in his home state.

A Drudge snap poll shows that Trump won the debate by a landslide. Though Drudge is generally perceived as a conservative site, but it’s possible Democrats participated, because Trump is their favorite candidate — the one they are sure they can beat. CNN, for its part, worked assiduously to make the debate all about Trump: he had the most air time, was permitted to interrupt the other candidates time and again, and was the subject of many questions to the other candidates.

But Trump did not win the debate. He was constantly red-faced, but especially so when Carly Fiorina went after him. Moderator Jake Tapper gave Trump the lion’s share of attention and limited the time allotted to the other candidates, but Fiorina, when she was given a chance to speak, hit Trump as hard, if not harder, than any of the others on the stage. She even rattled off detailed defense objectives in a very convincing tone. Trump seemed to avoid articulating numbers, whether in relation to defense, or anything else. He was noticeably silent about the cost of his immigration proposals which launched his campaign.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush became animated when Trump accused his brother of jeopardizing the nation’s safety, and from that point on, was no longer willing to play Mr. Nice Guy to the New York bully. His self-styled nickname “Eveready” (like the battery) and even his admission to smoking pot, all demonstrated an ability to be comfortable in his own skin that Trump, standing next to him, could not match. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio outshone Trump on foreign and national security policy, showing that national security demands more than bluster. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie likewise dealt with substance, while also demonstrating that he could stand up to the liberals who dominate politics in his home state.

When the moderators turned the debate into reality TV, Trump was the winner by far. No one can outshine the star of “The Apprentice” when he was operating in his own make-believe element. As soon as matters got serious, however, he was quickly silenced. Moreover, Trump also was notably silent when it came to criticizing Hillary Clinton, unlike his other rivals on the stage. His retort that he was chummy with Democrats because he was in the business of buying politicians of all stripes didn’t win him applause.

Whatever the Drudge poll might have shown, he did not win this debate. Nor, for that matter did Ben Carson, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (who glossed over the fact that as a congressman he opposed Ronald Reagan’s defense budget increases), Mike Huckabee, or Scott Walker. Fiorina, Rubio, Christie, and Bush, once Trump had goaded him once too often, all did well, with Fiorina establishing herself as someone who no longer will be the last out of the top 11.

The Republican field of 17 is already down to 16 with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry having recently faced the reality of a campaign going nowhere. Others are sure to follow. By the next debate, it may well be down to a dozen, or less. Trump will certainly be one of those still left standing, but this second debate, particularly its second half, made it clear that he is both being taken seriously, and is no longer going to benefit from kid-gloves treatment by his fellow candidates. The next debate should be a doozy.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Dov Zakheim is the former Under Secretary of Defense.

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