The one reason Donald Trump was the clear winner of the first GOP debate

Trump made it through the first Republican debate by avoiding the one mistake that could have seriously damaged his insurgent campaign: sounding like a professional politician. For that reason alone, he seemed to me the clear winner.

I watched the debate at the House of Blues in downtown Cleveland with a crowd of true-believer conservatives at a viewing party sponsored by the American Conservative Union. It might not have been a representative sample of Republican primary voters, and I should note that there was an open bar. So my observations should not be confused with actual political science.

That said, it was fascinating that Trump got the loudest cheers, by far, from the beginning of the debate until about three-fourths of the way through, when either exhaustion or the bar began to take a toll and the crowd’s attention seemed to wander.