This Thursday, millions will set their televisions to Fox News to catch the top 10 Republican candidates for the first 2016 GOP primary debate. With Donald Trump presently leading the pack with his superstar appeal, and nine other candidates seeking a few sound bites on major media outlets, it has not been clear exactly where many of the candidates stand on the issues likely to be of significance in the general election. This debate may be the first time voters learn where the candidates stand on today’s top issues. More importantly, it may be the first time many potential voters actually learn about the issues the nation faces; such as abortion, same-sex marriage and the state of the economy.
While there may be those who will walk away with an impression of certain candidates after the debate, the real conversation pieces are not the politicians themselves, but the policy issues. This debate serves as an opportunity to open the dialog to many Americans who do not watch the news daily and may tune into politics only during major elections. For the GOP, this debate provides the opportunity to showcase what conservatism stands for, not what each candidate will actually do for America. In light of the recent interview with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was unable to define the differences between a Democrat and a socialist during an interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC, the Republican Party should set distinct expectations and contrast the party with those who don’t understand where the Democratic Party intends to take America.
Also this debate may not be free of campaign ending gaffes. Unprepared candidates with less than stellar accomplishments, little experience in areas related to policy issues, and maybe even a brain fart or two will show up and leave candidates looking unprepared and unprofessional enough to serve as commander-in-chief. That being the case, this debate may be nothing more than round one of eliminations to filter out those without the qualifications or the ambition to make a successful run at 2016. Such fallout may pose additional opportunities for those whose campaigns have yet to peak to make a case for the nomination in the months to come.
Another expectation from the debate will come from the field of players. With ten candidates on the stage for Thursdays debate the topics covered by the GOP will most likely be limited. With so many candidates the GOP has the potential to limit the policy issues to only a handful of significant topics. With ten candidates we can likely expect ten different viewpoints on the policy issues. With such a large volume of political actors in the field, the GOP has the opportunity to deliver the conservative message in a manner that doesn’t leave candidates sounding as if they are harping on the same issues over and over. There is an old saying that “repetition is the mother of memory.” Thursday’s debate is the first chance for the GOP to get the slow echo of conservative policy rattling in the heads of the millions of voters tuning in for the entertainment of the fight.
One thing for certain, Donald Trump has brought into the race the attention of millions of voters who otherwise might have disregarded the GOP race as nothing short of boring. The excitement of a colorful, controversial character will likely contribute to huge ratings, and Republicans will have the opportunity to educate voters on these challenges and why the GOP is the party for America. While the Donald has distracted many from major breaking news and posses the potential to sway voters away from the Republican Party in the general, the controversy of his actions are an eye catcher. For those who can’t turn away from a good fight, Trump may be just what the GOP is looking for to stir up ratings and conversations among likely voters. Sooner or later those conversations may turn to politics.