"Booooo," audience members said Saturday night when Donald Trump said that the George W. Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "Booooo," they said when he told Jeb Bush that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, happened on his brother's watch. "Booooooooo," they said when he disrespected Sen. Lindsey O. Graham in front of Graham's home-state crowd -- booing that evoked a response from Trump: "I only tell the truth, lobbyists."
Trump, never short on explanations for why people often disagree with him, has an explanation for why the audiences at the past two debates booed him. He explained it during a debate earlier this month in New Hampshire.
"Let me just tell you," he said, as the crowd there booed him, "we needed tickets. You can't get them. You know who has the tickets for the -- I'm talking about, to the television audience? Donors, special interests, the people that are putting up the money."
The crowd booed.
According to the Republican National Committee, that wasn't true. The party told the Daily Caller that only 75 of the 1,000 people in the audience were donors. The rest of the tickets, FactCheck.org explained, were divvied up between Saint Anselm College, which hosted the event, and the debate sponsors, ABC News and WMUR-TV.
Saint Anselm got 200 of the 1,000 available tickets, which allowed Trump to revise his excuse.
"The kids made a fortune last night," he said the day after. "The kids were scalping tickets." For what it's worth, a few people were seeking tickets on Craigslist, but not many people seemed to be selling. That may be because, as McClatchy reported, you couldn't actually scalp such tickets. Because of the Secret Service's presence -- necessitated in part by Trump -- tickets sold were matched to identifications. "We know of no instance of a student reselling or attempting to resell a ticket," a college spokesman said.
But Trump continued that argument this weekend, tweeting on Sunday that he wanted the rules to change.
Tickets for future debates should be put out to the general public instead of being given to the lobbyists & special interests - the bosses!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2016
All of that being said, in regard to the debate on Saturday, he may have a stronger case.
WYFF-TV in Greenville, S.C., explained how tickets for the most recent debate were allocated. Chad Groover, chairman of the Republican Party in the area, said that "he gave tickets to supporters, including elected officials, who work hard for the party."
"You'll have a good mix of people who are donors, people who are donors and workers, and people who are just workers,” Groover told the station. The Huffington Post reported that Groover got about a third of the 1,600 available tickets, with each of the six campaigns present getting 100.
That may explain why Trump was received with such hostility. First of all, it doesn't take much booing to sound like a lot of booing. I don't have scientific data on this, but it seems pretty obvious. It's like people being rude online: It takes only a few to drown everyone else out.
Second, at least 500 people were there -- 100 from each of the five non-Trump campaigns -- with a vested interest in razzing the front-runner. Depending on your definition of "establishment," more than half of those people were there to cheer on someone who comes from the Republican Party's mainstream. Add on top of that a cluster of folks from the local party -- people who almost certainly are more likely than not to adhere to the establishment's view of Trump -- and you've got more than enough people to build up a decent head of steam on some heckling.
But also consider the target. Donald Trump leads and has led the Republican field for a long time. As robust as his support is, though, a big chunk of the party would very much like for him to lose. When CNN/ORC polled New Hampshire earlier this month, Trump was the first choice of about 30 percent of Republicans in the state -- but nearly 40 percent said they'd never back him.
He's polarizing. People love him or hate him. And the people who hate him are more than happy to join in a chorus of boos.
Which reinforces why it makes some sense for Trump to disparage the audience. No, they aren't all donors. But were he to say that it was members of the establishment booing him, he'd be pretty close to the truth. He'd also be getting at the same result: showing that he is the guy whom business-as-usual Republicans want to defeat.
Boooo, the establishment says to that nifty turning of the tables. Booooooo.