Thursday, December 10, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Debate Miscalculation

After the large number of Republican presidential debates in
2012, and the subsequent loss of the election by the GOP
nominee, it was widely assumed there had been too many
debates. It became a commonplace that the conservative
party would reduce the number of debates dramatically in
2015-16 to avoid the “overexposure” of 2011-12.

This was, in fact, done. Only 5 debates were sanctioned
for this cycle before January 1, 2016.

It turns out that this was a classic case of fixing a past mistake,
without anticipating new circumstances.

The new circumstances included the “underexposure” of at
least one candidate who effectively has used the “free media”
period of the campaign (the period prior to January, 2016).
Businessman Donald Trump’s poll numbers have repeatedly
gone down immediately after most of the debates so far, but
rebound in the usually month-long intervals between debates.
In that interval, Mr. Trump makes statements which apparently
shock and dismay most of his opponents, the GOP establishment,
as well as provide the media (most of whom oppose him) with
daily fodder. Lots of folks, but not necessarily voters, however,
either think they agree with Mr. Trump or find him sufficiently
refreshing to choose him in the polls or show up at his rallies.

Then there is another televised debate, and Mr. Trump is shown
to be lacking in information and experience, especially when
compared with some of his rivals.  The first “anti-Trump” was
Carly Fiorina, but she has not yet managed to catch on. Then it
was Ben Carson, but he has already faded. Then it was John
Kasich, but he produced a backlash. Then Jeb Bush joined the
anti-Trump fray, but he, too, has failed to gain support.

The GOP has now scheduled an additional debate as the voting
begins next year, but I don’t think this tactic alone will work. One
of the remaining “major” candidates will have to take on Mr.
Trump, and be seen by GOP voters as their better choice to be the
conservative nominee.

In spite of the numerous candidates remaining in the GOP field,  it
would appear now that there are three who might most successfully
turn the nomination contest around and in their favor. They include
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Each of them has demonstrated
debating skills, and has a serious resume with political experience.
Of course, one of the other candidates could suddenly rise and win
the nomination, especially if no one clinches the nomination before
the GOP convention, but if the “Trump phenomenon” is to be
stopped, it seems that one of those three will have to do it. Each of
them is currently rising in various polls --- Mr. Rubio in many states,
Mr, Christie in New Hampshire, and Mr. Cruz in Iowa.

There are those who argue that the “Trump phenomenon” is an
illusion, a visceral response by those polled to his blunt talk and
defiance of political correctness. When the actual voting begins,
this argument continues, real voters will choose someone else.
Perhaps this is so, it’s a reasonable argument, and yet Mr. Trump,
only facing his rivals once a month in debate, has contradicted it
for some time, and remains apparently well ahead of the pack.

It would seem that if Mr. Rubio, Mr. Christie or Mr. Cruz can now
overcome Mr. Trump, they will --- out of sheer gratitude ---
overcome some hurdles now put in their way by many grass roots
voters and in the Republican establishment. Mr. Cruz perhaps has
the hardest task, having made his appeal so far mainly to only one
wing of the party.

Recently, Mr. Trump has revived his “threat” to run as an
independent candidate in November if he does not feel
“well-treated” by the Republican Party. On paper, it seems a
real threat. But as my friend Nathan Gonzalez of The Rothenberg
Gonzalez Report
has written, this might be an empty threat of a
“sore loser” who would likely only receive a small percentage of
the vote in November and be humiliated by it.

Donald Trump is in the race to be the Republican nominee for
president, He has done remarkably well so far, but not a single
vote has been counted, and many primaries and caucuses are

The Democrats can still win the presidency again in 2016. If the
Republicans want to reclaim the White House, hard work, good
strategies and above all, cool heads are needed in the days

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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