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Donald Trump’s character as a pro-wrestling heel developed exquisitely in the debate tonight.


Like a true heel, Trump attacked the audience at the ABC debate, claiming it was packed with Republican hacks. (For those who are clueless about the WWE, a heel is the bad guy who is rude and crude and breaks the rules, who is mean to children and puppies, etc., and who many fans root for anyway.) After giving a surprisingly fluent defense of eminent domain, Trump mocked Jeb Bush for criticizing him: “He wants to be a tough guy.” Then he shushed Bush (“Quiet.”), and the audience booed. And here was Trump’s best performance as a heel since the first debate. “That’s all of his donors and special interests out there,” Trump said, waving his finger at the crowd. They booed more. “That’s what it is,” he shrugged. 

After the first Republican debate, I argued Trump was best understood as a WWE heel. (His persona was pretty close to The Million Dollar Man.) The Fox News crowd was wild, and went crazy when Trump was asked whether he’d pledge not to run as an independent:

The Fox News ref asked Trump, You wouldn’t do a terrible thing, would you? And Trump said he would. Even though experts say it would be very, very bad? Yes, even then. His poor, hardworking, worked-his-way-to-the-top-the-hardish-way opponent exclaimed, Can’t you all see he is actually doing an even worse thing already? It’s true, Trump shrugged, I am a very bad man.

Trump stayed true to this persona tonight. As he attacked the audience, he spoke to the millions watching on TV. “We needed tickets,” he said. “You can’t get them. You know who has the tickets?—I’m talking... to the television audience—donors, special interests, the people that are putting up the money.” Enormous boos! “The RNC told us, ‘We have all donors in the audience.’ And they’re not loving me. .. The reason they’re not loving me is I don’t want their money. ... I’m the only one up here who can say that.” 

Vote for me, I’m the bad guy, but at least I’m honest about it.