by Kenneth R. Timmerman
The pundits had given up Donald Trump for lost.
Republicans were bailing on him. Women were turned off. Why, even his vice presidential pick, Mike Pence, was so disgusted he was on the verge of ditching the campaign (not).
While it’s certainly true that weasel Republicans were jumping ship, the rest showed the true colors of the punditocracy: they were taking a victory lap for their candidate, trying ever so desperately to convince themselves that their dreams of a Hillary Clinton presidency had become reality.
While by no means the worst, CBS “Face the Nation” anchor John Dickerson thought the elite media had found their ultimate “gotcha” moment. In his grilling of Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani on Sunday morning, Dickerson tried eight ways of turning that dead fish in the fire.
He did the same in the spin room after the debate — but with increasing desperation. Donald Trump had nailed it. And Dickerson and his fellow pro-Hillary pundits couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed.
Pollster Frank Luntz — who had been touting the “Dump Trump” Republicans just 24 hours before the debate — had the presence of mind at least to face reality.
He convened a focus group of 30 undecided voters to watch Sunday’s debate, and by half-time, more than half of them felt that Trump was winning.
When it was all over, Luntz announced that 21 of the 30 found Trump convincing, while only 9 said they were swayed by Hillary. Luntz tweeted out why:
(His focus group cared more about Hillary's emails than Trump's tape)
How many pundits, including Karl Rove, had explained beforehand that Trump needed to confront the allegations swirling around the “hot mic” tape then pivot to Hillary’s vulnerabilities. But alas, no, they sighed. Trump was an old dog who couldn’t learn new tricks.
Donald Trump’s command performance on Sunday night showed that the GOP nominee can remain extraordinarily focused under intense hostile fire, a quality Americans want to see in their president. He also showed he could assimilate vast amounts of information, and dole it out calmly and judiciously, while staying focused on issues Americans care about, such as jobs, the economy and keeping America safe from ISIS terrorists.
Moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz did their best to help Hillary out of her jam, interrupting Trump dozens of times, trying to box him into a corner.
When Trump responded to a question about his earlier calls for a ban on Muslim immigration by saying it had “morphed into extreme vetting,” Raddatz cut him off.
“And why did it morph into that? No, did you — no, answer the question. Do you still believe…”
That quote reads as disjointed because Raddatz was trying to talk over Trump as he answered her question. Which in the end he did, calmly and rationally.
This was the performance Trump supporters have been waiting for since the primaries. How many times have I heard at Trump rallies or even in casual encounters with voters who were not die-hard Republicans, “I can hardly wait to watch Donald Trump demolish Hillary in a one-on-one debate.”
That’s exactly what Americans witnessed on Sunday night.
When Hillary lied about her secret Wall Street speeches, trying to explain away her belief that presidents should have a “public” and a “private” policy as admiration for Abraham Lincoln, Trump called her out. “Honest Abe never lied,” he said. “That’s the big difference between Abraham Lincoln and you.”
He pivoted again when the moderators tried to go after him for a 3 a.m. tweet about a former Miss Universe to Hillary’s 3 a.m. moment — when she failed to answer the call from U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, under attack in Benghazi.
Like most of the networks, the CNN pundits’ panel spanned the full political spectrum of Trump-haters. In published commentaries just after the debate, they universally claimed against all evidence that Trump had “lost” the debate and predicted a dismal defeat in November.
In their last presidential poll in 2012, the Gallup organization predicted a Mitt Romney victory by 1 percent. Instead, Barack Obama won by 3. Gallup said they would correct their methodology. Instead, they got out of the presidential polling business.
How many of these esteemed “pundits” will get out of punditry after their lies are exposed by the ultimate reality test on Nov. 8?
Here’s my prediction: none of them.