This week Thursday, August 6th, we will get to see 58.8 percent of the 17 major declared Republican candidates participate in first debate of the 2016 presidential election cycle. It should be quite a show.
I have previously confessed to my Democratic Party affiliation, so I hope my Republican friends and readers will bear with me here. But if you cannot, I understand, and I hope that you will come back to the next post, which will not be on this subject. I’ll get something together on the Democrats too when they get a debate scheduled.
I have been saving this Daily News front page for several weeks now, wondering if Trump would quit before he really got started. Local folks may remember that this happened just last year when he played (which is the correct word here) with state Republicans about the gubernatorial nomination and many of them fawned all over him. I won’t name names. Hopefully once fooled, twice shy.
The Republican Party and Fox News are calling the event a debate but that is not the proper term. When you think “debate” you think of a one-to-one confrontation. You think Lincoln-Douglas or Kennedy-Nixon, maybe even Bush-Clinton-Perot. But ten candidates on the stage, even with a two hour time-slot, is kind of absurd.
The Party made an effort to get better control over this cycle’s debates, limiting the number, controlling the locations, maybe getting more friendly moderators.
The selection of the participants has kept the talking heads busy for months. The make-the-cut criterion that Fox is using (the top ten candidates in an average of five polls) is arbitrary, but actually less arbitrary than most of the methods that might have been used. So while Bush, Walker, Trump, Huckabee and Rubio are pretty well locked into one of the ten spots, the other dozen candidates are scrambling for the five remaining podiums. The decision about participants will not come until Tuesday, which will mean some anxious folks waiting for a phone call. That is why we recently watched Rand Paul take a chainsaw to the tax code and Lindsey Graham put a cell phone in a blender after Trump revealed his cell number.
And then there is the question of what to do about the seven candidates who won’t make the cut. Relegated to the children’s table, the undercard, the losers’ section — call it what you will. As some of the candidates who are likely to end up there regularly point out, there have been instances where candidates polling in the single digits in August the year before the election end up winning the nomination and even sometimes the election. But what is a party to do when their wealth of candidates overflows?
Actually what is overflowing is lots of money from billionaires and mere multimillionaires who like to dabble in politics. As I quoted from Newt Gingrich in a post earlier this year, sometimes one of these rich folks prefers to fund (“buy” is a nasty word) a presidential candidate this year rather than buy a new yacht. These millions of dollars will keep some candidates in the race long after their “sell-by” date comes up.
You can do the math on the number of candidates in the August 6th “debate” vis-à-vis the time that Fox has allotted to the program, 120 minutes. Take away intros, closes, a break in the middle, the length of the questions posed, you are left with maybe 90 minutes of candidate talk time. Divided by ten is about nine minutes each, if the time could somehow be allocated evenly, which will not happen. It doesn’t seem likely that they will be able to allow each candidate to respond to each question and even if they tried, would anyone remember by candidate ten what the question was? Which means that we will not even hear the position of some of the candidates on what will likely be very important issues.
We might see a few “lightning rounds” with only one word answers allowed or a show of hands. “Everyone in favor blaming Obama for everything, raise your hand.”
And then of course there is Donald Trump. Supported by a large chunk of the Republican base; despised by maybe a majority of Republican party loyalists; and cheered mightily for getting the Republican nomination by multitudes of Democrats. If he were to behave like a rational person, he would get lost in the crowd. Rest assured that that will not happen.
So buy some popcorn, settle back in a comfortable chair and watch the show. Or if you are a Republican, maybe take the evening to watch a good movie or have some fun with the kids.