Will Trump's Vagueness Prove a Vice?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Earlier tonight, the Republican candidates debated in Miami. It was a relatively restrained, subdued affair—just the kind of debate for which party elders have longed. There were fewer pyrotechnics to obscure the substantive policy discussions, but it’s not clear that will work against Trump:

On question after question, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio offered specifics, while Trump served up vague generalities and promised to make better deals. The trouble for the Republican Party may be that many of the specifics these candidates offered are at odds with the views of the public at large, while many of Trump’s generalities spoke directly to popular anxieties and frustrations.

Take Social Security. Two-thirds of Americans believe that benefits shouldn’t be cut; three-quarters of the candidates on stage felt otherwise. They spelled out the challenges facing the program in detail, and called for changes. The sole exception was Donald Trump. “I want to leave Social Security as is,” he said. “I want to make our country rich again so we can afford it.”

You can read more, and the full live-blog of the whole debate, here.