Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

10 August 2015

Yes, I’m still talking about it. I can’t help it. I’m still pumped, fascinated, revolted, energised and a whole host of other adjectives from last week’s Republican presidential debate. There are several reasons for this. The principal one is that this was my first presidential debate since I have lived on US soil. The whole brand of entertainment-meets-politics is endlessly fascinating to me.

But I’m not the only one. The first GOP presidential debate of the calendar doesn’t always draw much excitement. No nation on earth has such a preamble to actual voting day and we’re still 15 months from the “big event”. And yet the audience figures on Fox News – 24 million people tuned in – were a record.

Why? Well, love him or hate him, the answer boils down to one larger-than-life personality. You guessed it: Donald Trump. Ever since last Thursday’s debate, the news channels have been endlessly assessing each of the 10 candidates that spoke. Who were the winners and losers? Who had the best policy? Did Trump do well?

In essence, it doesn’t matter what the debate polls say. Trump achieved what Trump set out to do – the same as when he erects a giant tower embossed with his name – he got himself a shedload of coverage.

While poor Ben Carson, a Republican candidate, was struggling to get his voice heard, a jowly, defiant Trump was commanding double the airtime. Any browse of the international media in the wake of the debate would have revealed the same thing: the orange, coiffed and burly figure of Donald Trump plastered ubiquitously.

Does it actually matter if he won the debate? Because all anyone is talking about is Trump, Trump, Trump.

I cannot wave a magic wand and see into the future. And I have no idea what will happen in what promises to be a dramatic road to 2016 with any number of curve balls (to use an Americanism).

What’s certain is that Trump, a candidate being referred to as post-policy due to his lack of any strong, well, policies, is still in there. And in a Republican pack filled with dry and often lacklustre politicians, his hubris and punchiness are undoubtedly entertaining.

Will he plateau? Quite possibly. But the Trump train has rumbled on this far when many said it would have already derailed. The more he puts his foot in his own mouth the more popular he seems to get.

So I intend to keep gawking. I personally have zero time for both the man and his views. But I’m enjoying the ride nonetheless.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s New York bureau chief.

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