I had an epiphany with these debates. They’re not really debates, at least on the Republican side. They’re 90% a series of mini-speeches delivered when they all happen to be on stage at the same time, and they tend to rehash the same few subjects over and over.. You want to shake up the next one, the final before Iowa?
Take the top eight candidates. Don’t even give an undercard debate. Take the four most recent national, Iowa, and New Hampshire GOP polls each, and come up with your top eight from there. As of this moment, that logic would rank them like this.
1. Donald Trump – 31.25%
2. Ted Cruz – 18.83%
3. Marco Rubio – 11.08%
4. Ben Carson – 7.08%
5. John Kasich – 6.17%
6. Jeb Bush – 5.75%
7. Chris Christie – 5.33%
8. Rand Paul – 3.41%
Out: Carly Fiorina (2.75%), Mike Huckabee (1.67%), Rick Santorum (.75%), Jim Gilmore (0%)
So how to handle the debate. Pair them up and give them thirty minutes each. You can build backwards. Christie v. Paul. Kasich v. Bush. Rubio v. Carson. Trump v. Cruz. Then they can actually debate the issues rather than give mini-speeches. Even select randomly. What would Trump v. Christie look like, just the two of them? Who’d be the energetic one in Bush v. Carson?
Now when it comes to poll-watching pre-Iowa, I am more inclined to watch what 538 has to say, and so far, they have Iowa going Cruz, Trump, Rubio, Carson, and then New Hampshire would go Trump, Rubio, Kasich, Cruz. Conventional wisdom says that if Cruz wins Iowa, Trump wins New Hampshire, and if Trump wins Iowa, it’s over.
Ah, but this is an unconventional election year. I would argue that if Trump wins Iowa, the notoriously contrarian New Hampshire Republicans will try to elect someone different, and I doubt it’d be Cruz. Who they settle on is up in the air. Rubio’s hold to second place is tenuous, and Kasich’s been making strides. Bush’s silo of Super-PAC money has kept him from falling out of the top six in most states.
Some other things:
1. Sarah Palin endorsing Donald Trump has to be the ultimate pull-down of the Tea Party curtain. No one has lost esteem more quickly with regular Republicans than Palin, a once promising governor who decided that rather than study up on the issues and become a consistent voice for conservatism, she turned into a populist publicity machine, a craven reality-TV star endorsing another reality-TV star. She needs headlines with him more than he needs headlines with her.
But in many ways, she’s the capper for this bizarro race. So many alleged conservatives like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, even Rush Limbaugh to an extent, lost their minds for Donald Trump. Some of them are backtracking now that Trump’s attacking Ted Cruz with the same fervor he did against Lindsey Graham or Rick Perry.
2. For my part, I don’t want Trump or Cruz. Both of them would lose in the general, and both of them will shrink the GOP tent, not expand it. My top choice would be Marco Rubio, but there are a couple others I could get behind. Throw in Nikki Haley as VP, and you have a formidable ticket.
3. This should be a good year for a Republican to take back the White House. Hillary Clinton’s email scandal is growing worse with every trickle-down new round of released emails, showing that more and more classified and/or top secret information was on her private server. It means the threat of avowed socialist Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic nomination is very real. A Trump v. Sanders general election would be a very angry one. I suppose it would beat a low-energy election like Bush v. Clinton.