Good morning Austin:
Welcome to Austin, Mr. President.
Have a great day here.
“And so far I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Trump said about a third the way through Thursday’s 12th Republican presidential debate.
And afterward, Trump spun the event as “elegant,” as if he were Fred Astaire to Ted Cruz’s Ginger Rogers.
And yes, it seemed, so low was the bar, that everyone seemed to buying into last night’s debate as some kind of high-tone, high-brow affair.
And yet this followed a day in which Trump rallies – and Trump’s campaign manager – were in the news, for acts, or, in the latter case, an alleged act, of real physical menace. And this was said of a debate in which Trump managed one of his most deft acts of sheer demagoguery yet.
Here it is:
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, let me start with you. Last night, you told CNN quote, “Islam hates us?” Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?
TRUMP: I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.
Watch this. It is genius. Donald Trump doubles down on an outrageous statement – the kind, countless by now, that he routinely makes, any of which would have felled a lesser candidate – but delivers it as an affable laugh line that re-enforces to a tee what people like about him the most – his refusal to be politically correct.
And, truth be told, my guess is that while most Americans know that what he said was inappropriate and not what you want a president to be saying, if said Americans were attached to some Frank Luntz meter, their pulses would quicken, and, if they were filing out a survey with a guarantee of anonymity, and were asked whether a) very few, b) a lot, or c) all Muslims hate us, “b” would do very well, followed by “c” and then “a.”
Back to the debate.
DINAN: Do you want to clarify the comment at all?
TRUMP: Well, you know, I’ve been watching the debate today. And they’re talking about radical Islamic terrorism or radical Islam. But I will tell you this. There’s something going on that maybe you don’t know about, maybe a lot of other people don’t know about, but there’s tremendous hatred. And I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.
DINAN: Senator Rubio, your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, said in response to Mr. Trump’s comment last night, I’m sorry — Senator Jeff Flake, I apologize. Your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Flake said in response to that comment, Republicans are better than this. Do you agree?
RUBIO: Well, let me say, I know that a lot of people find appeal in the things Donald says cause he says what people wish they could say. The problem is, presidents can’t just say anything they want. It has consequences, here and around the world.
RUBIO: And so let me give you one. Two days ago, I met this extraordinary couple who were on furlough because they are missionaries in Bangladesh. It’s a very tough place to be a missionary. It’s Muslim.
And their safety and security very much relies upon friendly Muslims that live along side them, that may not convert, but protect them and certainly look out for them. And their mission field really are Muslims that are looking to convert to Christianity as well. And they tell me that today they have a very hostile environment in which to operate in because the news is coming out that in America, leading political figures are saying that America doesn’t like Muslims. So this is a real impact. There’s no doubt that radical Islam is a danger in the world.
I can also tell you if you go to any national cemetery, especially Arlington, you’re going to see crescent moons there. If you go anywhere in the world you’re going see American men and women serving us in uniform that are Muslims.
RUBIO: And they love America. And as far as I know, no one on this stage has served in uniform in the United States military. Anyone out there that has the uniform of the United States on and is willing to die for this country is someone that loves America. No matter what their religious background may be.
DINAN: Mr. Trump?
TRUMP: Marco talks about consequences. Well, we’ve had a lot of consequences, including airplanes flying into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and could have been the White House. There have been a lot of problems.
Now you can say what you want, and you can be politically correct if you want. I don’t want to be so politically correct. I like to solve problems. We have a serious, serious problem of hate.
TRUMP: There is tremendous hate. There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means. Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.
Now I will say this, there is tremendous hatred. The question was asked, what do you think? I said, there is hatred. Now it would be very easy for me to say something differently. And everybody would say, oh, isn’t that wonderful.
DINAN: Mr. Trump, thank you.
TRUMP: We better solve the problem before it’s too late.
DINAN: Senator Rubio?
(APPLAUSE) RUBIO: Well, here we go. See, I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m interested in being correct.
Not bad for a ho-hum, feel-good debate.
Then there was this at a Trump rally Wednesday in Fayetteville, N.C.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, I want to start with you in this block. Earlier today, a man was arrested and charged with assault after sucker- punching a protester in the face at your rally in Fayettville, North Carolina. This is hardly the first incident of violence breaking out at one of your rallies.
Today, Hillary Clinton, your potential general election opponent, clearly indicated she sees this as an issue for the campaign. She said, quote, “this kind of behavior is repugnant. We set the tone for our campaigns, we should encourage respect, not violence.” Do you believe that you’ve done anything to create a tone where this kind of violence would be encouraged?
TRUMP: I hope not. I truly hope not. I will say this. We have 25 (thousand), 30,000 people — you’ve seen it yourself. People come with tremendous passion and love for the country, and when they see protest — in some cases — you know, you’re mentioning one case, which I haven’t seen, I heard about it, which I don’t like. But when they see what’s going on in this country, they have anger that’s unbelievable. They have anger.
They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals, they don’t like seeing higher taxes, they don’t like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. And I know — I mean, I see it. There is some anger. There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake.
TAPPER: Some of your critics point to quotes you’ve made at these debates — at these rallies including February 23rd, “I’d like to punch him in the face,” referring to a protesters. February 27th, “in the good ol’ days, they’d have ripped him out of that seat so fast.” February 1st, “knock the crap out of him, would, you? Seriously, OK, just knock the hell. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise, I promise.”
TRUMP: We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things. They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and they start hitting people. And we had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people, not only the loudness, the loudness I don’t mind. But doing serious damage. And if they’ve got to be taken out, to be honest, I mean, we have to run something.
And it’s not me. It’s usually the municipal government, the police because I don’t have guards all over these stadiums. I mean, we fill up stadiums. It’s usually the police — and, by the way, speaking of the police, we should pay our respects to the police because they are taking tremendous abuse in this country and they do a phenomenal job.
So we should pay — we should truly give our police. They’re incredible people, we should give them a great deal more respect than they receive.
OK. So, yes, let’s hear it for the police, who, in the best tradition of the Dallas Police Department, 1963, lead someone in their custody into harm’s way.
Only, as I recall, the Dallas police actually arrested Jack Ruby on the spot, unlike the Fayetteville police, who let Old Man Racist be so he could enjoy the rest of the rally, and tell Inside Edition how much he enjoyed sucker-punching the black guy, and threatening, with a certain KKK panache, to kill him next time he encounters him.
The scene, however, was captured on video by Ronnie Rouse, a friend of the victim, Rakeem Jones, and, alas, the next day, the Fayetteville police had the sad duty of arresting OMR.
Back to debate, one would expect that even if Trump didn’t want to be very forthright in his condemnation of the violence, his rivals would seize the moment to set a higher standard, and score some points off Trump along the way.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz, are you concerned at all that these kind of scenes potentially hurt the Republican party for the general election?
CRUZ: Listen, I think for every one of us, we need to show respect to the people. We need to remember who it is we’re working for. You know, we’ve seen for seven years a president who believes he’s above the law, who behaves like an emperor, who it is all about him and he forgot that he’s working for the American people.
And let me — let me ask, turn the camera our here. How many of y’all feel disrespected by Washington?
CRUZ: Washington isn’t listening to the people. And that’s the frustration that is boiling over. And we need to nominate and elects a president who remembers, he works for the people. You know, at Donald’s rallies recently, he’s taken to asking people in the crowd to raise their hand and pledge their support to him.
Now, I got to say to me, I think that’s exactly backwards. This is a job interview. We are here pledging our support to you, not the other way around.
CRUZ: And the only hand raising I’m interested in doing is on January 20, 2017 raising my hand with my left hand on the…
… bible and pledging to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of United States.
TAPPER: Thank you senator.
Yes, some 78=year-old racist clocks a young black man and Ted Cruz cuts to the chase – it’s Obama’s fault.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, if you’d like to respond.
TRUMP: It shows the total dishonesty of the press. We were having — on a few occasions, again massive crowds. And we’re talking and I’m saying who is going to vote on Tuesday? Who is going to vote? The place goes crazy. Then I say, hey, do me a favor. Raise your right hand. Do you swear you’re going to vote for Donald Trump?
Everyone’s laughing, we’re all having a good time. That’s why I have much bigger crowds than Ted, because we have a good time at mine.
TRUMP: But we’re all having a good time and the next day, on the Today Show and a couple of other place, not too many. Because when you look at it, everyone’s smiling, laughing. Their arms are raised like this. They had pictures, still pictures of people and they tried to equate it to Nazi Germany.
It is a disgrace. It was a total disgrace. And I’ve had reporters, people that you know, come up to me and said that — what they did on the Today Show was a disgrace.
And then, on the day of unassailable civility, there was this:
Ay yi yi.
So who won last night’s debate?
How does it change the race?
I think both Marco “on the ropes” Rubio and John Kasich did well enough to materially improve their prospects of winning their home-state winner-take-all primaries in Ohio and Florida Tuesday. If they both win, Trump may not be on his way to a first ballot win in Cleveland in July and it will be a free-for-all with Cruz very much in the mix.
If Trump wins both, it may knock both Rubio and Kasich out of the race and give Cruz a clean shot at Trump, but a Trump that will be hard to catch. And, if Trump wins one and loses the other, Cruz will not be as far behind, but he’ll still have to knock another candidate out before he gets the one-on-one race he craves.
From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo on Cruz’s performance last night:
He knocked Trump a few times here and there. But that wasn’t his main goal. Most of what he was trying to do he could have done even if Trump wasn’t on the stage. Cruz’s main goal was to talk to the audience, to engage in a soliloquy of conservative purity and drive. There is a big basket of anti-Trump votes out there. And Cruz’s goal was to scoop them up. So attacking Trump, except to set up his own perorations, was basically irrelevant. He was trying to swoop up the existing anti-Trump vote, not pull Trump’s supporters away from him.
He was also looking for ways to drive home the point that there are only two candidates left who can be the nominee. In that goal he had Trump as an ally. Cruz is a consummate bullshit artist. But on his hand-raising gyre, shifting from Trump’s heil-hand-raising rallies to raising his own hand at his inauguration next January, that was some quality bullshit. No question. There’s a certain earnest, unironic and treacly sentimentality that is like mother’s milk for traditionalist American conservatives – think Ronald Reagan, embodying an American eagle, on a flag background, on a blue sky. Cruz was deep in that groove tonight and I think he helped himself.
Everything I saw tonight made me think that Trump is well on his way to becoming the GOP nominee. I see no big obstacle stands in his way. Just as important, if for whatever reason Donald Trump isn’t the nominee, it is now extremely difficult to see how the nomination won’t go to Ted Cruz. Maybe you can steal the nomination from one factional, plurality winner. You can’t steal it from the guy who came in a close second too. That just won’t fly.
And from Scott Bland and Steven Shepard at Politico:
Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate with a realistic chance of winning the 1,237 delegates necessary to claim the party’s presidential nomination, according to a POLITICO analysis.
A close examination of demographics, polling, and delegate allocation rules in the remaining states suggests there is a path for Trump to win a majority of delegates, but it is a tightrope walk that leaves the businessman with little margin for error.
The outlook for his rivals is grim – there is almost no way they can get to the magic number.
Barring major upsets in Florida and Ohio next week, Ted Cruz will need to win approximately 70 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination outright. That essentially makes Cruz’s path to 1,237 as unlikely as Marco Rubio’s route.
And, from David Brady at the Christian Broadcasting Network:
Ted Cruz: “Donald has done well in the southeastern states. He has had a good base of support. We’ve done well as well, we’ve been typically second in each of those states, and we’ve racked up delegates. Now Donald has a harder problem in the west, it’s interesting, his location he does well in the southeast. He does well with a certain demographic of voter. Donald gave a press conference where he said, to quote him, ‘I love the poorly educated.’ Listen, part of it is I think Donald is taking advantage of his voters because I understand what they’re angry about, but Donald if you’re angry at the corruption of Washington, you don’t solve it by supporting someone who has been enmeshed in the Washington corruption for forty years.”
Ted Cruz: “Listen, Donald does well with voters who have relatively low information, who are not that engaged and who are angry and they see him as an angry voice. Where we are beating him is when voters’ get more engaged and they get more informed. When they inform themselves, they realize his record. He’s what they’re angry at. He is the corruption, and if you want someone to stand up to Washington, the only one who has been doing so in this race is me.”