— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2015
You’ve got to pity Rand Paul after Thursday night’s Fox “Fair and Balanced And Totally Not An Arm Of The GOP!” News Republican Presidential Primary debate. This is not just because of the embarrassing scuffle with Chris Christie. No, it’s more to do with Rand failing to be the natural successor to his dad Ron Paul as the “Ron Paul of 2016”. Paul père was never expected to win the nomination in either 2008 or 2012 but he did capture the enthusiasm of a sizable enough number of libertarian (mostly) dudebros to make a showing in both those primaries and dot the landscape with silly hand-painted looking signs. This was a sure path to Ron Paul’s lucrative retirement hawking financial scams.
Rand Paul has struggled to amass a similar following to his father’s, likely due to his awkward attempts to straddle the libertarian and authoritarian camps. But Rand’s efforts have largely been rendered moot with the entrance of Donald Trump into the GOP primary. That was further cemented by an exchange at Thursday night’s event that was very similar to the “let him die” moment of the 2011 GOP primary debate when Ron Paul shrugged off the plight of a hypothetical uninsured young man with a serious illness.
Check out the response of the crowd of Thursday’s debate by Trump to Fox anchor Megyn Kelly’s question to Trump about the litany of ugly statements he has made to and about women.
“You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals,’ ” Kelly began her question before Trump interrupted her with the one-liner “Only Rosie O’Donnell.” Trump has sparred with O’Donnell in the past, but as Kelly noted he’s issued similar insults to other women. “I think the big problem that this country has is being politically correct,” Trump responded to Kelly. “I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I frankly don’t have time for total political correctness, and to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore.” The only time the crowd really turned on Trump during this answer was when he issued a veiled threat to Kelly, saying, “I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you have treated me,” which elicited boos from the crowd. Perhaps the lesson is you can call women the vilest names as a Republican Party candidate for president, as long at they are not Fox News personalities.
Indeed, Trump muffed it at the end there. Menacing a conservative woman like Kelly was definitely an unwise move on Trump’s part. (Trump is too much of an idiot to quit while he’s ahead, as he proved later in the evening on Twitter.) But that probably didn’t erase the good will Trump clearly built up with the misogynists in the audience who cheered raucously at his gratuitous jabs at Rosie O’Donnell and other women Trump finds unlikable. Right wingers have learned the hard way that attacking women in general is a losing proposition but they obviously feel they can get away with directing their gross misogyny at certain women, such as the aforementioned O’Donnell, Hillary Clinton, Lena Dunham, Beyoncé, or any woman (slut!) seeking health care at Planned Parenthood. Having a long history of being nasty to women doesn’t appear to have hurt Donald Trump with Republican primary voters thus far. If he takes a hit in the polls it will most likely be from his admission that he might run third party if he doesn’t get the nomination.