If you watched the two Republican debates last night, what follows may or may not coincide with your own perceptions. If you didn’t watch, then this blog will give you a very limited sense of what transpired.
The evening began with the debate between the four contenders who are polling at 1% or less; former governor George Pataki, former senator Rick Santorum, Governor Bobby Jindal, and Senator Lindsey Graham. Given their low status, you might think of this as the “JV scrum”. Three had a fleeting “moment” in the sun: Pataki when he thundered that Trump will “never” be the GOP’s presidential nominee because he is “unfit” to hold the office. Santorum came out strong in favor of an increase in the minimum wage which is anathema among most Republicans, and Graham who admonished his party to either do something positive about our immigration problem or die off slowly as a viable political entity given the demographic shifts that are ongoing in the country. To twist an old metaphor, this was like dropping a “tootsie roll” in a punch bowl. Not one of these four men elevated their game to the point where they will ascend in the polls and join the “varsity” when the next debate rolls around in October.
There was a clear winner in the “main event” and that was Carly Fiorina, followed by Chris Christie. In contrast, Trump and Dr. Ben Carson were both underwhelming; the former even subdued compared to his brash, caustic pre-debate self. It will be interesting to see if these two men lose any status in coming polls. If they do, it is likely that the votes they lose will accrue to Fiorina and/or Christie.
The remaining contenders, in no particular order were: Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. As was the case in the debate held earlier in the evening, each of these men had their “moment”. Was it inspiring? a game-changer? Probably not. Among them, it was Bush who needed to really shine to gain traction with GOP voters. If that happened, it was not evident. But, perhaps coming polls will tell a different story.
To no one’s surprise, the night was filled with the bashing or Obama and/or Hillary Rodham Clinton. This was accomplished by means of outright lies, lies of omission, distortions, and references to now thoroughly discredited “scandals” like Benghazi and the heavily edited video-tape of Planned Parenthood. What stood out among all this was Jeb Bush’s claim that his brother, the former president, had “kept us safe”. Of course, if you discount the single-day murder of over 3,000 innocents on 9-11, that’s true. But, by that same logic, President Obama has also “kept us safe”. There’s no telling when his distractors will get around to admitting that.
Finally, and as noted above, the next GOP debate will occur in October. It seems highly unlikely that the composition of the two groups will change. But, what is likely to be different is who is positioned where (1). Trump will probably remain at center stage but flanked on his immediate left and right by Fiorina and Christie, an improvement over their placement last night. The rest of the contenders should be more or less in their same spots. It’s also a safe bet that the aforementioned outright lies, lies of omission, distortions and reliance on discredited “evidence” will continue unabated.
- If you were unaware of this, the candidates are arranged in order of their poll numbers; i.e. the person with the highest poll numbers gets center stage, with the remainder of the contenders lined up in rank-order based on their polling.