The second round of 2016 Republican presidential debates is now history. This is certainly looking like one of those TV reality shows that drop contestants as the weeks go on.
I saw a portion of the second tier/happy hour debate that preceded the main event. Rick Perry dropped out last week. Jim Gilmore was not invited to participate. Lindsey Graham is knowledgeable and entertaining. George Pataki presented himself well. The fact is, though, that in a 16 candidate field, candidates who are drawing less than one percent in national polls are not going to raise money, organize a campaign or develop a following. We have seen the last of the two-tiered debates, whether any of these candidates want to hang on or not.
As for the main event, Paul can soon go back to just running for senator from Kentucky and Walker will soon be able to concentrate on beating up unions in Wisconsin. Chris Christie has brought nothing special to the table and still has some New Jersey problems hanging over his head. Huckabee is losing the evangelical base to Carson. So whether it is in October or in November after the next Republican debate, those four will be, for all intents and purposes, gone.
So that leaves seven. The outsider lane is very crowded with Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina. In the most recent national poll, from CBS and the New York Times on September 15, those four candidates combined had 59 percent of the support of Republicans – a clear majority of party loyalists. Fiorina will undoubtedly break into the double digits in the polls after her performance this week, but it is not likely that the 59 percent base of the outsiders will change much. So her bigger share of support will probably come from Trump and Carson, neither of whom had a great showing in California. Ted Cruz, of course, is simply waiting for Trump to drop out and hand him his supporters, as if that will be very easy.
In the Republican “establishment” lane the CBS/NYT poll had Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and John Kasich dividing up 15 percent of national Republican support. When Walker and Christie decide to leave the field the establishment guys can fight to divide up the 3 percent of support that the two governors will leave behind.
The CBS/NYT poll has about 14 percent undecided at this point. I would think that if anything, that block of Republicans will grow a bit between now and January as the fringe players drop out.
The general consensus of the talking heads that populate the national news shows is that the race is very fluid and they are correct. But the thing to pay attention to is that the outsiders/far right-wing candidates’ share of support in the party is very strong and the establishment side is on the ropes at this time. For those who know their political history or can remember that far back, this is beginning to look like 1964. Fed-up very conservative Republicans have wanted one of their own as the presidential candidate for the last several cycles and it looks like they might get their way in 2016. This looks like back to the future – Goldwater versus the Rockefeller wing of the party. Goldwater had some serious negative consequences for the Republican Party.
So where will WNY Republican leaders go with these developments?
We have seen over the summer that some local Republican leaders and fundraisers have signed up with some of the perceived frontrunners for president. So how is that going so far?
Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy joined the Scott Walker effort. Mark Hamister and company raised money for Marco Rubio. Bob Rich, Chris Collins and company are on board for Jeb Bush. Carl Paladino is supporting Donald Trump, although his particular role has not been identified so far. No need to raise money there.
I am not aware of any significant local Republican support for Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz or John Kasich.
As noted above, Bush, Rubio and Walker are not playing particularly well on a national scale. Things can perhaps change for Bush. Rubio comes across as intelligent and a good speaker, but his performances in the debates seem to lend credence to speculation that he is actually running for vice president or governor of Florida. He has a lot of time to run for president again in the future.
Walker seems to be toast, but do leaders like Langworthy stick with him or move on? The county chairman has some connection with Donald Trump from the gubernatorial dalliance in 2014.
There are obviously a variety of local Republican officeholders and party leaders who might now try to play a role in the presidential sweepstakes if they choose to challenge the others who have already signed up with Bush, Rubio, Walker and Trump.
New York State is not usually a significant player in presidential primary or general election politics because the primary comes too late to influence things and the state is too blue for a Republican to carry in November. But for the primary and the selection of New York State Republican convention delegates 2016 could be different. Things will happen soon enough. Petitions hit the street for the New York presidential primary on December 29, just 102 days from now.