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Given Donald Trump’s history of political appearances, usually characterized by startling outbursts and insults directed at other candidates, Wednesday’s Republican presidential candidate debate portrayed Trump in a less extreme light. That’s not to say that Trump didn’t show his true colors – he accused the moderators of poorly executed fact-checking and rambled on about his plans for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Despite holding a prime position in the Republican candidate race, only recently surpassed in the polls by Ben Carson, Trump didn’t hog the spotlight at the debate, as the moderators aimed to spread out the time allotments.
Trump came on strong regarding immigration, emphasizing that he would be willing to admit immigrants into the U.S., as long as it is accomplished through legal means. This stance was legitimate until he brought up his plan to build a wall along the border, reiterating that he would make the Mexicans pay for it.
“A politician cannot get them to pay for it – I can,” Trump said.
His rhetoric throughout the debate was colored by statements like this – seemingly credible until he quickly moved onto another topic, failing to back his statements with concrete plans and evidence for the positive prospects of his promises. He made no comments on how he would persuade the Mexicans to pay for it, and even if they did, how a wall of that sort would even be feasible.
To his credit, Trump strictly adhered to the agenda he set forth at the outset of his campaign. In an arena characterized by wishy-washy candidates constantly defending contradicting policies, Trump stands out by standing firm in his convictions. This may not always serve him well, as he espouses a variety of extreme positions especially in comparison to some of the more moderate candidates, but for his supporters, it validates their trust in his promises.
On the other hand, Trump undermines some of the credibility he establishes with his childish and defensive behavior. He squabbles with the moderator over petty remarks, exaggerating his responses like a child when he doesn’t get his way.
Trump’s tax plan continues to receive credible criticism. He made bold statements about cutting taxes without increasing the deficit, statements that the moderators brought into question based on criticism from economic advisors. Trump side-stepped the issue, a glaring mistake during an economy-focused debate.
Straying from the economic focus, gun control and Atlantic City bankruptcy were hot topics for Trump. Regarding gun control, Trump stated that he has a permit to carry, garnering laughs for his cavalier comments about his sporadic gun-carrying.
“I like to be unpredictable,” Trump said.
He made sure not to make light of it consistently, acknowledging the concerns regarding gun acquisition by the mentally ill, treading lightly on the topic so as to not to make it a point of controversy.
In relation to the point of Atlantic City, Trump made sure to remind everyone that he has had hundreds of successful businesses – Atlantic City ranks among only a few declared bankruptcies.
We get it that Trump excels at business – that’s not the problem. Trump has yet to demonstrate that he is electable as a politician, making grand plans with no backing in experience or fact, rather relying on passionate speeches. He’s made his campaign into a spectacle, and it’s working because he provides the shock factor.
So Trump didn’t win the debate. Content-wise, he fell a little flat. Sticking to your agenda only gets you so far if the major points are simply repeated. Such a tactic just adds credibility to those with doubts about the legitimacy of a billionaire businessman transitioning into the presidency. It remains to be seen if Trump has a legitimate plan to make America great again.