The Republican First “Debate” Thursday; How soon will Donald Trump Implode?
Thursday at 9 pm est., the first Fox News Republican “debate” will take place with the main event allowing only the top ten vote getters to participate, according to the average of five polls as of 5 pm Tuesday. A list of the participants can be seen below. All the others with at least a one-percent showing will appear in a mini-debate held before the main attraction. Right off the bat this format is controversial. The polls are so close near the cut-off tenth spot that differences are insignificant. Less than one-percent separates the tenth candidate, Gov. Kasich of Ohio, from the eleventh, Gov. Perry of Texas (although some backlash against the unfairness to Gov. Perry’s barely missing out might actually help him). Others are close behind the not very lofty first-loser number of 2.8 per-cent. Yet the very appearance in the debate, even this far removed from the nominating convention, might produce somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophetic effect–in that participation alone gives somewhat of a sense of legitimacy to a campaign. Nevertheless, expect some changes, some even significant among the order of the marginal candidates as we move along the campaign trail. In short, don’t place too much emphasis on this one “debate” (placed in quotes because the format hardly qualifies as a real debate).
The “debate” will be moderated by Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier–not exactly a line-up of unbiased facilitators. Hopefully they can stuff their personal and conservative biases for long enough to give every candidate a fair shot. But I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on that hope.
As every one should know by now, name recognition and media sound-bites play a huge part in historically unreliable early polls. The debate format ensures that sound bite will continue to be paramount. 1 minute to present, then 30 seconds to reply and if the reply mentions a candidate then it will be up to the moderators whether or not to allow him to make a rejoinder. This year the joker in the deck, as far as generalizing from past primary polls is the effect of the newly and overwhelmingly used social media, Facebook, Twitter and a host of other smaller but niche sites. A premium, early-on, is placed on garnering sound-bites that get discussed on Facebook, etc.. A case in point is current front-runner on all polls (but somewhat declining of late in the face of mainstream Republican criticism), Donald Trump. He has made one outrageous “Donaldism” after another. Most making little or no sense. His seeming candor has had a first-glance, and that’s all his sudden fame can be called, an appeal that taps into the general frustrations many voters feel about politicians. As Mark Cuban has noted, his seemingly speaking his mind, irrespective of any evaluation of the content, is appealing to him, as well we must surmise, and others. Trump went from under five per-cent in the polls to his currently front-running position in the twenties in just one month’s time. Whether his style and strategy of pouring forth outrageous short statements has any lasting power is, of course, the question of-the-moment.
It should be noted that in the latest Iowa polls, for the first primary (actually a caucus that rewards candidates with high intensity supporters willing to travel to the caucus) Gov. Walker, of neighboring Wisconsin, leads Trump by anywhere from two to nine per-cent.
It will be fun to watch the “debate’ to see who makes bloopers like Gov. Perry did last year, ending his then candidacy–though he has reappeared this year wearing prominently rimmed glasses, presumably to appear brighter–almost anything would help in that regard.
Back to the main-event, the top ten “debate,” Donald Trump has to avoid looking like a fool and parry expected attacks on him, all the while continuing to garner headlines. Jeb Bush figures to preempt the “statesman” role and look the most Presidential, but the one minute presentation limit works against him. Walker and Rubio want to stamp themselves as THE conservative candidate. Cruz hopes to do that as well and has positioned himself to benefit from Trump’s support, when and if the latter’s candidacy falters. Christie has to re-establish himself as one of the front-runners, a position he occupied less than a year-ago. He must hope that the front runners do themselves damage. Instead of direct attacks on Trump, the one minute format makes a quick one short specific question to Donald about foreign policy issues the best strategy to make him look bad, that is, apart from getting him to blow-up, reinforcing the notion that Trump’s temper makes him a poor choice to lead the country. When the dust settles–post-Iowa, at least–I fully expect The Donald to self-implode and the race for the nomination to come down to Jeb Bush with Scott Walker testing the thesis that the Tea-Party types and other far-right Conservatives have taken over the Republican Party. Democrats will be praying for a Donald Trump third-party run.
|RCP Average||7/26 – 8/2||23.2||12.8||10.6||6.6||6.6||6.2||5.2||4.8||3.4||2.8||2.0||1.4||1.2||1.0||0.4||Trump +10.4|
|FOX News||7/30 – 8/2||26||15||9||6||7||6||5||5||3||3||1||2||1||2||0||Trump +11|
|Bloomberg||7/30 – 8/2||21||10||8||7||5||4||6||5||4||4||2||2||1||1||1||Trump +11|
|CBS News||7/29 – 8/2||24||13||10||8||6||6||6||4||3||1||2||1||2||0||0||Trump +11|
|Monmouth||7/30 – 8/2||26||12||11||6||5||6||4||4||4||3||2||1||1||2||1||Trump +14|
|NBC/WSJ||7/26 – 7/30||19||14||15||6||10||9||5||6||3||3||3||1||1||0||0||Trump +4|
All 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination Polling Data. Source: Real Clear Politics