As I have been suggesting for some time, the first Republican
debate has begun the more serious stage of the 2016 GOP
presidential race. Donald Trump has provided a mixture of
entertainment and self-indulgence prior to the curtain going
up, but now that Carly (Fiorina), John (Kasich) and Chris
(Christie) have shown their faces before the audience, we will
have a different theater of political operations.
Mr. Trump, incidentally, will continue to obtain high poll
numbers and media attention, and the Republican
establishment should welcome that. An early departure by
Trump from the race while his numbers are high could enable
him to run more credibly as a third party candidate and do
some damage to the GOP. When he fades, as he will in the
coming months, his interest in an independent candidacy will
also fade as it becomes obvious such a run would likely hurt
no one except perhaps the Democratic nominee (from whom
he would likely draw more votes, especially if that nominee is
Hillary Clinton, in November, 2016).
Meanwhile, the political vacuum he has filled recently is now
being filled by bigger electoral personalities, including Mrs.
Fiorina, Governor Kasich and Governor Christie, as well as
Senator Marco Rubio. Two other formidable figures, who so
far have not projected strong personalities, but have notable
bases of support, are former Governor Jeb Bush and Governor
The biggest draw at the next debate (in September) will not be
Trump, but Carly Fiorina. Mrs. Fiorina triumphed in Cleveland
at the “also-ran” second debate, and has created a sensation
of her own. Governors Kasich and Christie did well in the
“main event” debate, as did Senator Rubio. Mr. Trump’s comedy
act was, after all, a set-up to the main show.
This is not to take away from “The Donald’s” performance.
Not unlike Ross Perot in 1992 and John Anderson in 1980, Mr.
Trump has provided colorful and temporary distraction from the
real contest. It should also be noted that Strom Thurmond
and Henry Wallace did the same in 1948; George Wallace did it
in 1968; and Ralph Nader did the same in 2000. It is a very
long-standing U.S. election tradition that third party candidates
stir up a temporary fuss.
On the Democratic side, their Donald Trump is Senator Bernie
Sanders. The liberal party’s vacuum has been created by their
frontrunner and once putative nominee, Hillary Clinton, so far a
a very weak campaigner. Until and unless at least one major
Democratic candidate (Joe Biden? Andrew Cuomo? Elizabeth
Warren? Amy Klobuchar?) gets in the race, Mr. Sanders will
continue to rise as Mrs. Clinton continues to decline. The
Democrats have a serious problem, and it is not Mr. Sanders.
Much of the preliminary commentary about the 2016 presidential
election has been wrong because pundits and “experts” did not
adequately take the voters into their accounts. There was a
preoccupation with past results, pure demographics, and a lot of
presumption. The media became obsessed with political cliches
about dynasties and political correctness. Sensation, faux
controversy and celebrity have thus dominated the political
conversation until the first debate.
Now it is the voters turn to assert their rightful place in the
discussion. There are big surprises ahead.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.