Hiller Instinct: Trump lost the first GOP debate

Come on, isn’t what you want to know first how Donald Trump did?

Ok:   He was not presidential, and from the moment he refused to rule out running  as a third party candidate, he was on the defensive.              

For many reasons, Trump was a loser.

He interrupted;  he made faces.

He came off as a hothead without enough self-control to contain his cheap shots, as when he called America’s leaders "stupid."            

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was number two in the polls coming in, and that made this debate almost as important to him as it was for Trump.

Bush wasn’t great tonight, but he was better than Trump.

And that alone makes bush a winner, because it gives him an opening. 

Bush isn’t the smoothest, but he is sincere.  He called Trump "divisive"…And he finally got his answer right about why it was a mistake for his brother–President George W Bush–to invade Iraq.

For the other eight candidates, tonight was a chance to break through, and break into the top tier of candidates.

In front of what may turn out to be the biggest primary debate audience ever, they all tried to persuade voters to look their way.

Who did it best?

My vote for breakout performance goes to Ohio Governor John Kasich.  He was professional and knowledgeable. He showed a sense of humor and was smart enough to give trump credit for hitting a nerve with voters.

My top takeaway:  Trump may not have helped himself with independent and moderate voters tonight, but I’m not sure that’s his strategy.

Instead, his aim seems to be to round up all the angry voters, and see where that takes him.