So the question after the second Republican debate is this: Will it take a week for Carly Fiorina to sit atop the GOP polls, or will it take two weeks? Because after Wednesday night’s debate, it’s going to happen.
People have been wondering for a while what event was going to slow down or reverse the rise of Donald Trump, since his candidacy appeared to glide through the potholes that have caused others like him and before him to crash and burn.
Well, the momentum shift against Trump happened all at once — when Carly Fiorina pointedly refused to complain to him directly about his remarks criticizing her face and instead suggested what he had done was an insult far broader than the shot at her.
Her cool response was “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” and it threw Trump on his heels. He actually blushed before seeming to think he was being a big and generous man by calling her a “beautiful woman” with a “beautiful face” — words of cringing condescension that only seemed to deepen the offense.
That was not the only moment in which Fiorina took control of the debate. At almost any moment that she managed to seize time to speak — and she was compelled by the structure of the debate to interrupt repeatedly to get that time — she knocked it out of the park.
That included perorations on the size of the military and on the reasons she and the two other nonpoliticians (Trump and the surgeon Ben Carson) have seized the popular imagination. “Someone who’s been in the system their whole life doesn’t know how broken it is,” she said memorably. “A fish swimming in water doesn’t know it’s water.”