BOSTON (CBS) - From the outset of his campaign for president, skeptics have dismissed Donald Trump's candidacy as a sideshow (if not a "clown show," as one of the last debate's hapless moderators put it), masking shallow policies and cursory thinking with world-class reality TV theatrics. And from the start, a surprisingly large percentage of voters have defied the skeptics with their loyalty to Trump.
Will that change after Tuesday night's fourth GOP debate, one in which Trump appeared to draw more booing and derisive laughter from the Milwaukee audience than applause?
I don't know. But it sure looked like Trump was on the short end of some key exchanges.
When the issue of major increases in the minimum wage was discussed by Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio, all said it would cost jobs and leave American business uncompetitive with overseas competitors.
But there were stark rhetorical differences in the way they responded.
Carson, who worked his way up the ladder from humble origins, said the focus should be on other ways of allowing people to duplicate his feat "rather than give them everything and keep them dependent." Rubio listed a string of opportunity-creating alternatives, including more emphasis on vocational education. "Welders make more money than philosophers, we need more welders and fewer philosophers," he said to loud applause.
Trump offered this advice, from a man who started his career with nothing in his pocket but a million dollar stake from his father: "People have to go out and work really hard if they want to get into that upper stratum."
Another interesting exchange came over immigration reform.
Trump's plan to deport the estimated eleven million people here without documentation was eviscerated by John Kasich, who called the idea "silly, not an adult argument." Jeb Bush suggested Trump's harsh plan was political poison that would only benefit the Democratic nominee.
Trump's dismissive response? "I built an unbelievable company worth billions, I don't have to hear (this)."
And after Carly Fiorina at one point made egg salad out of a Trump comment on foreign policy, he appealed to the moderators that she was "rude" for interrupting.
Perhaps true Trump believers saw Tuesday night's performance as presidential. It's hard to believe anyone else did.
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