The debate, and the ensuing dust-up with Megyn Kelly, mark the beginning of the end for The Donald. If you’re a Republican and you lose Fox News…worse yet, ATTACK a popular Fox News host for asking a perfectly fair question (you think the Clinton Machine wouldn’t bring up Trump’s disparaging remarks towards women if he were the nominee?), then insinuate she was menstruating — you’re lost.
Ailes and Murdoch have been fighting over this, with Murdoch worried Trump is damaging the brand, while Ailes loves that he’s bringing in ratings. Now Trump is going to lose Ailes, and Fox News (which he mistook for his friend, when it’s not, frankly — some of the opinion people give him an easy time, but he faced the serious journalistic side of Fox in the debate), and that’s bad for him. In addition, other people did very well in the debate (Rubio, Kasich, Fiorina), and now they will begin to get more interviews, more donors, and more cash, which will let them buy up more name recognition. So Trump’s enormous name recognition will cease to be such a factor.
This is NOT, as Charles Krauthammer put it, “The collapse of Trump,” not at all — Trump’s still fun, he’s still a fad, just like Herman Cain was for a while — but now other serious candidates are showing themselves and Trump is beginning to look buffoonish in his inability to switch himself “off” from his perpetual attack mode. It won’t wear well on people.
So while Trump will not collapse in the polls, he will sink slightly, as the other candidates begin to rise up. And eventually we will have a nominee who can seriously win, as opposed to Trump. Our only worry now is treating him “fairly”, as he put it, or he’s threatened to take all his marbles (what few he has left) and go play over in a third-party, which would basically guarantee Clinton the election without even doing any heavy-lifting. It would be ’92 with Perot again all over, except with an even crazier guy going on in his little third-party corner. So people will remain nice to him, with the possible exception of Rand Paul and a few others.
One thing to look for is when Ted Cruz stops supporting Trump. When Cruz breaks from Trump, which he has not done so far, it will be a serious sign that The Donald is on his last legs.