INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 14, 2015 – The fifth and last Republican “debate” of 2015 will be held tomorrow, and nine candidates will appear for an exchange that will help shape the contest heading into the Iowa caucuses.
Well, “debates,” since the losers will take the podiums first, setting the stage for the three or four hopefuls who have a chance.
But instead of those four, we’re going to have to see eight of them, all trying to get time and make points.
Worse, we have to waste an hour and a half before the “real debate,” listening to four dead men walking, each of whom will get more air time than the heavier eight.
Only a handful of contenders — Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and possibly the fast-fading Dr. Ben Carson — have a breath of a chance at winning the nomination. That is barring major manipulation by the party establishment, who would still like to see Jeb Bush continue the proud tradition of wanna-be presidents Dole, McCain, and Romney.
So, for an hour and a half (minus about 45 minutes of commercials and blather from the moderators), we’ll all be ignoring Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki and Mike Huckabee, who don’t share two percent among them.
Jim Gilmore? Bobby Jindal? Scott Walker? Rick Perry? Governors all gone, regardless of good political records, a lack of important scandals, quantifiable executive experience and some genuinely good ideas.
Any of them would be better a president than any of the Democrats, and better than at least half the remaining Republicans.
But we still have to listen to certain losers Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Chris Christie and, yes, Carly Fiorina. Among them, they’re polling a ridiculous 11 or 12 percent; tossing Bush into the mix and flushing them all away, we’d be shortchanging the interests of about 1/6 of the Republicans, most of whom already recognize the pointlessness of their candidates’ remaining on the stage.
In the meantime, the name recognition of Donald Trump carries the national polls, but national polls are meaningless to the Republican vetting process.
Republicans are paying more attention, early on, to the Republican candidates.
That may be why Trump’s huge name and money aren’t necessarily unbeatable in the primary race. Ideas, demeanor and principles all matter, and as we see the top four leaving Jeb Bush in the dust, the priorities among ideas, demeanor, and principles keep shifting; for instance, they raised Carson for his demeanor and then knocked him down for his lack of experience.
In all the show, we’re missing some good ideas. (Auditing the Federal Reserve, for instance.) We’re also dropping candidates with bad ideas (like raising the minimum wage). But ideas aren’t the only things that matter.
Still. there won’t be a real contest until Iowa, New Hampshire and the so far underrated South Carolina contests shake out some of the losers, who should PLEASE go home and work for the party to take the White House in 2016.
Tomorrow’s Republican presidential debate will be broadcast live from Las Vegas. The undercard debate begins at 6 p.m. and the main debate at 8:30 p.m. EST. Check your local listings for broadcasters, which will include CNN.