A raging, unhinged Donald Trump threatened Hillary Clinton with prison during a presidential debate unlike any other. But corporate media pundits said he won.
Donald Trump’s brooding, angry performance — filled with insults and threats to jail his political opponent and mean-spirited asides about the moderators — might not have won him many new fans, but it thrilled those already on his side, including Fox News analysts.
“After the first debate,” the Fox pundit Laura Ingraham said, “we had a lot of Republicans, myself included, who were wishing, ‘Why didn’t you bring up this? or ‘Why didn’t you bring up this?'”
But this time, she said, she and her colleagues watching from the Fox News trailer on the campus of Washington University where the debate was held were electrified by his non-stop attacks on Hillary Clinton, invoking many of the same themes and complaints sounded night after night on the conservative cable network.
Trump has been magnificent so far. Amazing. Truth teller. The Clintons have never fought anyone like this before.— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) October 10, 2016
He is absolutely KILLING IT.— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) October 10, 2016
A short time later, however, Chris Stirewalt, Fox News’s digital politics editor, suggested that Trump had erred by not “showing a contrite heart” over the tape of him boasting about sexual assault, and that by trying to change the focus to allegations about Bill Clinton, he was unlikely to have won over any new fans. “This was a debate for his base — he turned in a performance that his base would have wanted,” Stirewalt said. “He attacked on the sex stuff, as opposed to showing contrition, he focused on issues that they were into.”
By contrast, he said, college-educated white voters in places like suburban St. Louis, “who have been reticent to support Trump, he didn’t give them anything tonight. He gave his base a nice happy feeling.”
One of those voters might well have been the Fox anchor interviewing Stirewalt, Megyn Kelly, who said that many people found Trump’s comments on the leaked tape “repulsive.”
There was more evidence of this in the Fox News focus group assembled by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. When asked if Trump’s suggestion that his crude boasts were just “locker room talk” was enough to put the issue behind him, three women in the group rejected that idea.
After one man in the group said the remarks should be forgotten, the woman sitting next to him disagreed, saying, “No, I don’t think it should be put behind him. This is an issue of character. I have daughters.” When the man countered, “like he said, it’s locker-room talk,” she replied, “absolutely not, its predatory.”
A second woman then chimed in: “I would like to think that men do not say that in locker rooms, and if they do, maybe we should have a woman running things.”
A third woman added: “We cannot regulate morality, but we need to make sure that the person leading our country is a person that’s going to be respectful.”
Meanwhile, on social networks, several professional athletes listening to the debate suggested that Trump’s account of sexual assault tales as locker-room banter was off.
What kind of fucked up locker rooms has Donald Trump been in...— Brett Anderson (@BrettAnderson35) October 10, 2016