By Scott St. Clair | The Save Jersey Blog
The latest installment of Republican Presidential-Nomination Gladiator airs tonight on CNN, so do up some popcorn, send the kiddies to their rooms – this may be an event not suitable for family viewing – pour several stiff ones and get out your scorecards.
Look for blood to be shed since this go round will be the last, best hope for a number of the contenders, and I’m not talking about those who’ll participate in the kiddy-table or happy hour debate since they’re all officially toast. Among the prime time contenders, several need a breakout moment or two or you can expect to see them exit, stage left, in the not too distant future because their funding will dry up and their donors will stop returning calls.
In this category, but in no particular order, I put Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and our own Gov. Chris Christie. There are consequences for being in a herd that’s headed for the slaughterhouse.
While another Christie-Paul feisty exchange like in the first debate would be entertaining, these guys need to save it for shots not at each other, but rather at the top dog. They gain nothing attacking anyone in the last-chance boat – they’ve got to take a piece of hide from the man in order to get some kind of traction.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will survive this debate no matter how well he does since he’s got more money than God and still retains the backing of the GOP establishment, which, while increasingly looking like the Ottoman Empire during World War I (In case you missed it, it was nicknamed “the sick man of Europe” and ceased to exist after 1918I), still retains enough clout to go another round or two.
But in the final analysis – SPOILER ALERT – it ain’t gonna be him since the establishment won’t be able to control the horde of peasants armed with pitchforks, torches, tar and feathers who will come after them if he’s still standing at the end.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich can be called the Madison Avenue candidate since he “takes a licking, but keeps on ticking” or he’s the Energizer rabbit candidate or whatever ad slogan that focuses on durability. Not a stirring orator, but when he talks policy people listen and more often than not nod their heads in agreement. Look for him to doggedly hammer away on his policy agenda while pointing out the flaws in his opponents, such as they may be.
Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the jackal of the bunch, will be me-tooing front runner and New York real estate tycoon (or is that buffoon?) Donald Trump in the hopes of picking up whatever sloppy-seconds crumbs fall off Trump’s table. Always the self-aggrandizing opportunist, Ted Cruz can be counted upon to pounce on anything that might further Ted Cruz.
But he’s vulnerable, and recently there was an example of how he might be all show and no go. At the festivities surrounding the release of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, which was 99 percent a Mike Huckabee show, Cruz showed up looking to capitalize on the publicity and sew up support from Davis supporters. When he tried to get on the stage, a Huckabee aide, who was a head shorter than Cruz, prevented him from getting anywhere. Without much effort and when it mattered, Cruz was stymied.
He’s good with his bravado when protected by a podium, but he backed down in Bernie Sanders-in-Seattle fashion when confronted by a real human being.
Still, look for him to snarl like Trump’s lap dog.
That leaves retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and Trump.
Carson, he of the folksy, gentle and unassuming demeanor is shrewdly parlaying his role as the non-Trump outsider to inch his way up to where he’s now on the frontrunner’s heels. Watch for him during the debate to hang back a bit waiting for the opportunity to civilize things when they get out of hand.
Fiorina, whose assault on CNN to force them to change their rules so that she could join the boys at the Big Show, will go after The Donald with a vengeance. Of all the candidates, she’s the only one who has consistently shown raw nerve and guts on the debate stage and in getting there. She knows she needs to face down Trump and make him look like the bully he often is, and I suspect her decades-long career in high tech has given her much experience in this regard.
That leaves Trump – The Donald. All I can say is expect him to be him. Like a lot of other pundits, I’ve given up trying to “get” Donald Trump’s appeal among the so-called “conservative base.” About the only things he has in common with them (if you believe what they’ve said in the past) is hatred for Republican Party elites, all elected officials and for immigrants of any type. On the rest of the issues, they’ve tossed them overboard quicker than you can say, “Please confiscate my guns, and single-payer healthcare is fine by me.”
It’s no wonder that the three hot tickets right now are the only three with no successful elective experience. Running as an outsider doesn’t cut it if you’re a sitting or former governor or senator – right now people are so angry at the status quo that real-world political experience is a detriment, not an attribute.
Maybe the best explanation for all this, and especially the rise of Trump, was by Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, who wrote:
The people hate the elites, which is not new, and very American. The elites have no faith in the people, which, actually, is new. Everything is stasis. Then Donald Trump comes, like a rock thrown through a showroom window, and the molecules start to move.
It’s a political 52-card pickup with bomb throwers not just from the right, but, in the form of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, from the extreme left. In both cases, pandering to the lesser angels of their nature has become the order of the day.
I’ll also hazard a guess that, this time tomorrow, nobody, especially the know-nothing-at-alls who claim to the contrary, will know anything more about who will be nominated than they do right this second. No predictions, not even mine, are worth much seconds after they’re made because, in order to predict, you have to have data from which to discern trends. This year, there’s no data, only chaos and anger among the voters.
Enjoy the show, folks.