Trump won. Not because his counterprogramming nondebate event on CNN was so good — it was thin gruel — but because none of his opponents rose to the occasion.

The other seven candidates at the Trump-free Fox News debate cavorted on stage last night like kids on a playground who are always worrying about the local bully giving them a wedgie or stomping on their brown-bag lunches.

One day the bully is a no-show, and they all celebrate — even if it’s only for a day.

But how did it serve the RINOs’ purpose to tear one another apart yet again? The GOP media keep touting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as the anti-Trump, but he can’t get any traction, perhaps because Juan Ellis Bush, the bully’s main foil at most debates, is spending a million dollars a day on Rubio attack ads.

The two Floridians, Bush and Rubio, hate each other, but last night they were like the proverbial enemies destined to meet some night in a dark alley. Last night was the night, and the knives came out.

Rubio to Bush: “You changed your position on immigration.”

Bush to Rubio: “So did you!”

Rubio: “Well, but you changed it –”

Bush: “So did you!”

In other words, I know you are but what am I? No matter how much fat Frank Luntz’s Fox focus groups push Rubio and his “aspirational” views (like any real people use that word), you don’t win Republican caucuses or primaries by coddling illegal aliens.

Marco could ask Jeb Bush about that, if they were still on speaking terms. Rubio must have known he was on thin ice, the way he began yelling. Ralph Waldo Emersonsummed up Rubio: “The louder he spoke of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

Megyn Kelly, looking like an escapee from Madame Toussad’s Wax Museum, also nailed Ted Cruz on his amnesty flip-flopping. But Cruz at least had a couple of human shields — two of the most anti-amnesty stalwarts in Congress, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Iowa Rep. Steve King. King has even endorsed Cruz, which was why Cruz kept mentioning him, not just on immigration but on the ethanol issue.

As for CNN, they had millions of nonfans sampling their product. So they decided to showcase … Bob Beckel, bloated, heavy-lidded, doing his best Nick Nolte impression, reminding all the Fox viewers why Roger Ailes fired him from “The Five.”

Chris Christie was asked about Bridgegate and he responded, “I knew nothing.” Thank you, Sgt. Schultz. Then he said he would prosecute Hillary Clinton. Mixed message, much?

Rand “Also Ran” Paul pushed his Audit-the-Fed bill. He should have learned from his father, who succeeded on three issues — pot, weed and marijuana.

Gov. John Kasich said a reporter told him there are three “lanes” in the Republican fight — the establishment lane, the non-establishment lane and the Kasich lane. The Kasich lane? Most would call it the breakdown lane.

No more debates before the voting starts, and nothing really changed, so Trump comes out ahead. The champ doesn’t lose his crown on a TKO. Here’s how the other seven did:

1) Cruz, 2) Bush, 3) Rubio, 4) Paul, 5) Christie, 6) Kasich, 7) Dr. Ben Carson.

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(c)2016 the Boston Herald

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