Thursday, August 6, 2015

It's Opening Day! The GOP Breaks Training.

That's right folks. Tonight's GOP Presidential Debate marks the opening of the 2016 election season, taking over from the Iowa Straw Poll that is now canceled forever. It was bound to happen. Television is no match for some wealthy people eating steak and then moving around a tent to show their support for their candidate. Of course, Iowans will do pretty much the same thing this winter, but they'll be bundled up and in schools. Or living rooms. Without steak. Now I feel bad for Iowans.

Anyway. Tonight's debate.

The participants are set, with FOX having whittled a field of 17 Republican candidates down to 10 using a poll average that might or might not be very fair. Chris Christie is in, and must have let out quite a breath of relief in the process because his campaign was dependent upon his being in the limelight at all times so he could yell at the people that Donald Trump overlooks. John Kasich of Ohio, who only announced his bid in the past two weeks, also jumped into the fray, and he has the added advantage of actually being from...Ohio. Which the GOP needs desperately in order to win in 2016. That's where the Republican Convention will be held next year. It's where any nominee will have to set up shop and not leave. And hope Lebron and the Cavs can win the NBA title next June.

The other frontrunners will also be present, including Jeb, Marco. Scott, Rand, Ted, Mike and Donald Trump as this cycle's first candidate with a "moment." Remember in 2012 where each candidate had their time atop the polls until they imploded in gaffes or scandals? The exact same thing is happening now and Trump is the first to get lit. The national press is full of stories asking if Trump really could be the nominee. He can't be He won't be. Yes, it says a great deal about the present state of the party that he's atop the polls, but it won't last. If he's still in front on Halloween, I will rethink this. But he won't be. Move on.

The biggest beneficiaries once Trump blows up will be Christie and Walker, since they are the second choice of many of Trump's supporters. That's why both of them will continue in the race and why Christie, despite many saying that his campaign is destined to fail, need to face reality. He might not win, but he ain't going away anytime soon. Neither is Walker, despite being an intellectual lightweight. Smart politician, but he's going to have to win on personality and personally, I don't see that happening.

My take on the debate is that it's really Marco Rubio's to win or lose. He has great presence, he's young, he's energetic, and he's from Florida. If he can outshine, or at least hold his own with Jeb, then he will go a long way towards becoming a heavyweight candidate. Rand Paul can also surge if he stands out with his answers. Trump will bloviate; it's up to the rest of the field to essentially ignore him and to get their message out as succinctly as possible. No candidate will get more than 10 minutes of airtime during the debate, so looking and acting presidential is going to be the key. It will be interesting to see who comes up with the best lines, because policy is going to be in short supply. If you want a primer, this one is good.

As for those who didn't make the cut, all is not lost. It's still August and there's time to recover, but money will be sparse for the likes of Jindal, Perry and Graham. This is not a sprint, but it's a fast walk and you can fall behind quickly. Even Christie will need an infusion of money to keep him going after New Hampshire. It does not bode well for him to put all of his resources into that race. After that comes South Carolina, where he'll lose and then a whole bunch of tests in various states across the country. Will he, and the others, have enough to set up campaigns there? That's why the debate is crucial.

For political junkies, this is the first taste. There's more to come. Why do you think they call it dope?

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