You guys, I’m scared.
The most-maligned news organization of our time just held the most remarkable televised presidential debate of my lifetime.
I saw Reagan’s “There you go again” zinger and Lloyd Bentsen telling Dan Quayle “You’re no JFK.” I watched Al Gore’s candidacy wither onstage with one deep sigh. I’ve never seen anything like what happened on the FOX varsity stage Thursday night.
From Megyn Kelly taking it to Donald Trump, to Chris Christie (finally) squaring off against a political smartmouth his own caliber in Rand Paul, it was rowdy and raw and — thanks in large part to FOX debate hosts Kelly, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier — greatly revealing.
Hold me, Dick Polman.
Why this debate was different:
* Forget the policy wonk showcase showdown style of most televised debates, where carefully crafted message points and sound bites are paired with showoffy “who can name the most international despots” pageant answers.This had plenty of sound bites and .gif opportunities, but there was palpable dislike, spontaneous conflict and even a few rational policy answers too.
* Donald Trump won’t take The Pledge and promise not to run as an independent if he’s not the party nominee;
— Mashable GIF (@mashablegif) August 7, 2015
* Marco Rubio knows that if the race comes down to a “resume contest,” Hillary Clinton beats them all;
* Ben Carson would really like a question;
— Edward Bowser (@etbowser) August 7, 2015
* Mike Huckabee would like a check, if Donald Trump is giving out campaign contributions;
* Jeb Bush is trying to have a normal debate here;
* Megyn Kelly asked a #BlackLivesMatter question, which was followed by a cosmically-timed commercial for the new “Straight Outta Compton” movie;
— billboard (@billboard) August 7, 2015
* John Kasich went to a gay wedding!
Four years ago a gay veteran was booed audibly at GOP debate. Tonight, a GOP debate crowd cheered wildly for acceptance. Slowly but surely.
— Slade Sohmer (@Slade) August 7, 2015
* Ted Cruz pretty much hates everyone but especially the GOP;
* Chris Christie Sept. 11 yadda yadda yadda.
What was happening on social media during all this?
* In raw numbers terms, Donald Trump is the clear “winner” but it’s important to note that many mentions of him were in this vein:
The audience just cheered for Donald Trump calling women fat and disgusting.
— John Noble (@PeaceNoble) August 7, 2015
Trump says to Rand: “I don’t think you heard me, you’ve having a hard time tonight.” Did somebody tell Trump Rand wears a hearing aid?
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) August 7, 2015
* Rand Paul’s back-end social media operation got a lot of attention in this profile, and they were hitting on message on every platform, but it’s unclear whether that effort connected with anyone outside Paul’s libro-tarian base;
* Megyn Kelly, everyone!
“When did you actually become a Republican?” Megyn Kelly wins tonight.
— Catherine Addington (@caddington11) August 7, 2015
Megyn Kelly is like Severus Snape. At first you hate her…then she grows on you a little bit…then she kills Dumbledore
— Nick Morgan (@_nsmorgan) August 7, 2015
The “FOXblond,” as Polman adorably calls them, has had a hard time being taken seriously, but Kelly and her Real Housewives-level false eyelashes did not come to play. She clearly got under Trump’s skin, but he waited until the wee hours of the morning to call her a “bimbo,” so progress?
— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) August 7, 2015
So who “won”?
* FOX News, and don’t let anybody tell you different. The questions were legit, the ratings were through the roof, the moderators stayed on point and let the candidates be the ones to act like Insane Clown Posse;
* Watch Trump’s poll numbers over the next week. He’s been on top so far, but it was interesting to watch how the rathskellar applause he got died out to silence when he talked about his stance on abortion, and when he unashamedly talked about gaming bankruptcy laws and buying politicians.
— Newsroom Typewriter (@NewsTypewriter) August 7, 2015