Atlanta, GA – FOX Business, the network people only watch if they are a nerd, a billionaire, or lost in the underworld that is cable television. But tomorrow night the eyes of all political junkies, reporters, pundits and pollsters will be on it, as well as those of a few normal human beings just trying to figure out which of the crowded field of Republicans they actually want to support.
There will only be eight candidates in the fourth GOP Debate as we are now less than ninety days from the time of the first Republican Caucus in Iowa. Despite some polls showing Ben Carson in the lead, Donald Trump remains ahead by 0.8 % in the RealClearPolitics Average. He will remain at the center podium. So far his debate skills have not been killing anyone, but he also hasn’t destroyed himself. Once again expect some choice, newly rolled out Trump sound bites, somebody will be a “loser,” an “idiot” and “very low energy.”
Ben Carson, struggling to do damage control as questions are being raised about his past, needs to have a breakout performance to prove he deserves the spot he has in the polls and also to allay fears that he can’t do the job of a real candidate. But that is hardly to be expected. While Dr. Carson has had a few great lines in the past, he has been weak and almost pathetic looking on the stage in the past.
Marco Rubio, who along with Ted Cruz won the debate the last time, is busy answering questions about his money issues, which Trump has been attacking him on. He can be expected to answer those tomorrow, as well as continue to try and gain traction from his great performances on the stage. So far, even though he was once considered a TEA Party darling, he has been viewed with distrust as a tainted “establishment candidate” by many on the far right. And it is well known that the Far Right is desperately needed if someone wants to win the GOP Nomination.
Ted Cruz, while lingering below the others in the polls, is currently in a very unique place. With Trump being an obvious non-starter to anyone who has serious intentions about the presidency, and Carson being not much more than a kindly grandfather in the eyes of many, and with Rubio’s money issues, Cruz is positioning himself as the man to whom the party mantel could fall.
It is still far too early to tell, but Cruz is known not only as a great speaker and intelligent politician, but Cruz is the man who won the bloody backroom battle for support among the Texas hard right, and is now laying a ground campaign across the South. He has laid off of Trump so far, and when that balloon eventually bursts, all his followers might easily run helter-skelter into Cruz’s arms. That is still a ways off, but it’s never too early to start reading the tea leaves.
Jeb Bush remains a candidate who is damaged goods. Not saying he can’t win, we all recall how John McCain was pronounced dead and then rose to walk again. So the others need to keep bashing on the son of our former president if they want him to stay in the coffin, but unless lightning strikes, I don’t foresee any Lazarus moments for Mr. Bush.
As for Carly Fiorina, she is not doing so well these days, hovering around only 3% support. While her stellar debating in the past has moved her from the undercard debates to the main stage, where she still remains, she has failed to offer anything that has been appealing enough to lift her out of the crowd.
And then there is Rand Paul. A man who at one time looked to be a truly serious contender, the real surprise is that he has not yet been relegated to the undercard debate. And yet, for all that, even though he is in seventh place, Rand Paul is currently doing better than he has been. In fact, in a recent poll he was within the margin of error to tie for third in Iowa. While many have already buried the doctor turned senator, Rand Paul seems to be screaming out from beyond the grave. It’s still too early to tell, however, if he will be able to split the earth and rise again.
And then there’s John Kasich…that’s pretty much all there is to be said at this moment. He has little or no chance, at this point, of becoming president. One can only hope he withdraws before he wastes too much money.
We don’t know what will happen when the lights go on tomorrow night, who will shine, who will flop, who will forget their own name in their nervousness of being on stage in front of millions. But we do know it will be fun. And what’s the use of politics, if it can’t at least be that?
Andrew C. Abbott