Republican sighting in Miami! Get ready for a show?!
Or maybe not. We’ll know in a matter of hours what value stems from this day’s festivities. With football season about at its mid-point, baseball’s World Series having concluded a
week ago (has it really been that long already?) and various other sports either at the start of their forever-long seasons or relegated to the minor interest category, you would think tonight’s headliner political event – otherwise known as the third Republican debate -- might draw more than its share of interest. Heck, Wednesday night won’t even feature the latest episode of the conceptually fascinating “The Golden Bachelor” reality TV series to take viewers away from the remaining not-Trump Republicans.
In other words, the candidates should have the political world’s attention all to themselves. Does this mean folks will tune-in? I wouldn’t bet the house on it – at least not in greater numbers than they did for the first such forum (in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 23rd) or the second (at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on September 27). Both events were heavily overshadowed by the candidate who wasn’t there, namely race frontrunner and former president Donald J. Trump.
Trump held alternative programming to counter the Fox News (or Fox Business) debates, in August by appearing in a pre-taped interview with Tucker Carlson (was pre-recorded but shown on ‘X’, formerly known as Twitter, starting at the same time as the “official” event) and in September by speaking to a gathering of striking auto workers and other tradesmen who generally support Trump.
Trump’s again opted not to be seen alongside his fellow 2024 Republican candidates in Miami – he’s planning to hold a counter-rally in Florida instead -- so the ones who qualified, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor (and Trump’s U.N. Ambassador) Nikki Haley, businessman and political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy, the always good-for-a-chuckle former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and 11th hour qualifier South Carolina Senator Tim Scott – will take up considerably less stage space and program time to answer questions from NBC Moderators Lester Holt, Kristen Welker (new ‘Meet the Press’ Host, replacing Chuck Todd) and Hugh Hewitt, the lone conservative-leaning pundit of the trio.
The debate will begin at 8 p.m. EST, an hour earlier than the previous versions, which certainly benefits the sleep challenged on the east coast.
Many in the conservative commentator world expressed displeasure with the Republican National Committee’s decision to award yet another presidential primary debate to an establishment source like NBC, which, like all the other corporate media sources, has been no friend to conservatives or Republican causes over the decades. With a wealth of conservative outlets to choose from now, the stodgy and immovable party apparatus has apparently not learned its lesson.
With Trump not in attendance, the mystery is whether it will matter who hosts, moderates or chooses the subject matter for the debate. As was true with the first two forums, much of the viewers’ attention will still be concentrated on Trump himself, because the former president’s personality and immutable style will always be present whether his physical being is there or not.
That’s exactly the way Trump wants it and he knows just how to manipulate the message.
With the remaining not-Trump candidates so far behind Trump as it is, both nationally and in the early voting states, the race leader will be on their minds as well. With a decent slice of the allotted time likely to center on the situation in the Middle East (one of the sponsors is the Republican Jewish Coalition), the questions should provide ample opportunity for the old-guard Bush-ians (Nikki Haley, Chris Christie and Tim Scott) to call for an uninhibited pipeline of cash from the U.S. Treasury to Israel and other allies in the region. There will be plenty of (deserved) loathing directed towards Iran, a healthy chunk of anti-Russia rhetoric (also deserved, as long as more loot for Ukraine is legitimately debated) as well as a load of (again, deserved) warnings and concentration on Communist Red China.
Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy will no doubt attempt to describe the nuances in their positions on those topics, which hover closer to Trump’s “America First” emphasis and keeping America’s military strong without committing to being the world’s sole policeman against evil, a proposition that’s already been tried and didn’t turn out so well. With our country plunged hopelessly into debt, such ventures are simply too costly and expensive to tolerate.
There will also likely be some discussion on possible consolidation of the not-Trump vote. DeSantis has been in second place since the beginning, but hasn’t made headway against the frontrunner in months, if at all. Likewise, none of the others has made a major move, no matter how pundits try spinning Haley’s recent little bump into something substantial.
Former vice president Mike Pence recently dropped his presidential bid, undoubtedly realizing he wouldn’t qualify for any more debates (including this one). Some of the hopefuls still alive are similarly looking at increasingly stringent criteria for “earning” a place on stage. With Trump outwardly advocating for all future party events to be cancelled, it’s hard to envision how these things can go on without some type of format alteration.
One topic that probably won’t be addressed tonight is, who will be the next one to drop? Or maybe the subject will come up after all – that would make for an interesting if not combative segment, wouldn’t it? Dropping has been on the minds of lots of people lately. In an article titled “GOP Presidential Candidates Listed in Their Likely Order of Disappearance”, obvious Trump-hater and obnoxious Associate Professor of Political Science at Roosevelt University David Faris wrote at Newsweek after Pence’s exit:
“Who will be next into the abyss? Pence was polling around 3.5 percent nationally, according to Real Clear Politics averages, and we should probably expect other members of the sub-5 percent polling club to find the exit sooner rather than later. The guess here is that it will be Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) … His candidacy has never found any ballast, and with fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley locking down the remaining anti-Trump vote and donors while rising modestly in polls, it is no longer clear what exactly he is accomplishing by hanging around.
“The same could be said of both North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie... And I would feel guilty for wasting any more of my limited word count here talking about former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson...
“That whole group will almost certainly be gone by Iowa. The big question is whether it will be a three- or four-person race heading into the actual contests, and that might depend on whether biotech gadfly Vivek Ramaswamy can stop irritating everyone long enough to take a deep breath before the debates and make a measured case for himself. He's already down several points from a mid-September high of 8.1 percent as voters quickly tire of his interrupting chicken routine on stage and realize that he has about as much depth as a kiddie pool. There's a good chance that by the time the calendar turns to the new year, only Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Haley will be left standing.”
Ramaswamy having as much depth as a kiddie pool, David? If that’s the case, how much depth does senile Joe Biden have? Or cackling brainless Affirmative Action vice president Kamala Harris? Nancy Pelosi? “The Squad”? Gavin Newsom? Chucky Schumer? Patty Murray? Maxine Waters? Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren? Cori Bush? Gun grabber Beto O’Rourke? Any Democrat? Is a puddle too deep for them? “Deep as a kiddie pool” ain’t actually looking half bad compared to the others now, is it?
This “professor” of political science just goes to show there’s a position waiting at some idiot university propounding liberal nonsense for any smart-mouth jerk who can shovel the leftist media’s stinky bovine excrement. But Faris did bring up a few noteworthy points if you only ignore his unsolicited insults about every Republican... except maybe for Nikki Haley. Does that tell us something in itself?
I agree with Faris that the field will winnow – some – by the time that Iowa rolls around in a little over two months (January 15), the attrition caused by, more than anything, a lack of money and the potential to attract new donors rather than slumping poll numbers. Political candidates, except maybe for Trump, don’t give a lick about bad tallies on surveys because they all believe one way or another, that their moment has yet to arrive.
Past precedent would seem to play out the premise, as the early season’s poll leaders don’t always coincide with who’s ahead at the latter stages of the contest (see Carson, Ben, in the 2016 Republican race). But Trump’s lead has endured for so long that it’s unreasonable for those whose support isn’t enough to qualify for this debate (or the next one in December, TBA) to honestly guess that their fortunes will miraculously rise in the near term.
I’ve surmised that Chris Christie will stay in at least through New Hampshire and maybe into Super Tuesday figuring that the Never Trump faction needs a voice – and that none of the other surviving candidates would carry the whining and complaining “he’s not electable” and “we’re better than this” and “let’s all be bipartisan and get along” torch forward.
And it appears as though Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley will each stay in until it’s evident to everyone that it’s fruitless. We can’t tell when that moment will be, but it won’t be in Miami.
As with the first two candidate forums, tonight’s third Republican presidential primary debate likely won’t resolve much in the 2024 race. Donald Trump remains the center of the GOP’s presidential universe, and until it changes, don’t expect the others to fill the void.
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