Trump was something else entirely — some kind of post-truth, street-fighting, full-spectrum bulls**t artist. Say anything. Dominate constantly. Display no warmth. No compassion. No empathy. Just fight, fight, fight. Kick everyone’s ass, including that of the moderator, Chris Wallace, who repeatedly tried and usually failed to impose order on the chaos.

The Republican voters who flocked to Trump during the 2016 primaries loved this about him. “He fights!” was their mantra. And so he does. But the American electorate isn’t the Republican base. Trump has made this error from the beginning, and the fluke of the outcome of his contest against Hillary Clinton four years ago convinced him to repeat it ever since. The result? An approval rating far underwater for the entirety of his presidency and a race for re-election that he is losing handily.

Tuesday night was at once an audacious gamble for Trump and the most obvious play for him — an effort to demonstrate before a skeptical world that he can turn around his floundering campaign and win a shocking upset victory once again by trying the same old trick of treating the country as if it watches Fox News as obsessively and with as much relish as he does. Trump is utterly incapable of running to the center of public opinion, of making an appeal to a broader range of voters. So he just gets louder and meaner with the same old right-wing Republican message, hoping and expecting that a wider swath of the public will submit to the assault.