Donald Trump was picked on in Thursday's Republican debate—according to Donald Trump, anyway. "I thought their questions to me were much tougher than to other people,” he complained afterwards about Fox News’ moderators. And indeed it seemed like Fox’s moderators took it upon themselves to do the dirty work of the GOP establishment. The opening question, “Which of the candidates would pledge their support to the eventual nominee?,” reflected a growing fear in the Republican Party that a Trump run, either as their nominee or as an independent, would doom the party’s chances of winning. Now, after the debate, the conservative media is going on the attack against Trump.
Frank Luntz, the conservative polling guru, went on CBS’s This Morning on Friday to lambast Trump. “What do you say when you won’t guarantee to support the Republican nominee, when you call women some pretty horrific names, when you insult the moderator of the debate, when you don’t answer questions specifically, when you can’t even explain why you even went bankrupt,” he said. “I have to tell you, this was an amazing debate performance. Not amazing because it was effective, amazing because I saw the destruction of a presidential campaign over those two hours. It really was remarkable.”
“From the very beginning,” wrote National Review editor Rich Lowry in a post gleefully titled “A Fabulously Awful Night for Donald Trump,” “you could tell that Trump on a debate stage was going to play much differently than Trump has the last several weeks...The last month has been Trump making the rest of the field look small; tonight was the opposite.”
At The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes echoed those sentiments: “He turns out to be a different guy when he’s in the same room in his rivals—not as free-wheeling, not as funny, and no longer willing to trash them by name. He was out of his element, and it showed." Michael Warren added, "Compared to the detailed responses of the other candidates, and compounded by the pounding he received from the moderators, Trump looked like the lightweight, fairweather Republican that opponents like Rick Perry had been talking about for weeks."
Townhall's Guy Benson had a mixed review, citing Trump’s "braggadocio, lack of specifics and glib hostility," and commenting, "He's entertaining as hell and his mere presence at center stage almost certainly pulled in legions of curious casual viewers. But his ideology seems transactional and fluid—and his temperament leaves much to be desired."
Even Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro, who agreed that Trump “looked like a victim, not an aggressor,” found the candidate lacking in conservatism: "Trump’s leftist positions and ideological incoherence were exposed.”