[intro-text size=”25px”]On August 6th Cleveland hosts the first major primary debate for the Republican nomination at Quickens Loan Area. The Q may hold up to 20,562 spectators at full capacity but even Downtown’s premier Mecca will have trouble fitting all the potential nominees into the Jumbotron’s frame. Currently resting at sixteen, the field is just too expansive to engender any significant discussion with that many politicians jockeying to gain national attention at the same time.[/intro-text]
To alleviate this bottleneck, the debate organizers have decided that only the top ten candidates, according to an average of national polls, will take the stage. The bottom six will be relegated to a lower-tiered opening act which may as well be called the ‘kiddie table’. Front runners like Jeb Bush and Donald Trump have little to worry about, but those circling the drain are desperate not to get flushed to the undercard bout. If there’s anything you’ve wanted to get off your chest to the six that don’t make the nut say it now because it will be the last you see of them. With such a deep catalogue the bottom six will find themselves culled from the national conversation overnight. Frank Luntz, Republican pollster and TV circuit spin doctor laid it out in bold type for the Associated Press, “If you’re not on stage you’re irrelevant, you don’t matter. It’s not a glass ceiling, it’s a cement one.”
So who makes the cut and who gets an early start writing that memoir? Cue the Top Ten music… where’s Paul Schaffer when you actually need him?
RNC chairman, Reince Priebus, has promised Trump will not run as a third party ticket and splinter the GOP any further. Taken at his word, this leaves ‘the Don’ leading the pack with 16% according to a New York Times report. Trump is followed closely by Bush’s respectable 14%. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and somehow Mike Huckabee, are in the meaty center jostling around six percent a piece. The hyperbolic rhetoric that tumbles out of Ted Cruz’s mouth may be enough to keep America interested in his sideshow long enough to take the stage with the big guns but won’t give him enough fuel to make it to the finish line in 2016. Chris Christie and Rick Perry are hanging by a thumbnail at 2.8 and 2.4 percent, respectively, with Google search engine star, Rick Santorum, edging in from the eleventh spot with a close two percent. If Santorum plays small and targets his immediate competition he could find room on the dais. In the event of a tie, the debate organizers have decided to allow additional room because, what the hell, they’re just making it up as they go along anyway. This leaves the door open for our own John Kasich who is currently polling at 1.8, just ahead of Bobby Jindel of Louisiana.
All of this to say, we can stop (if we ever did) taking the campaigns of not only Jindel but fellow bottom rungers like Carly Fiarino, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki seriously. This is somewhat troubling as second-stringers like Kasich and Pataki are arguably the more rational and moderate of their ilk. The only chances these doomed contenders have are to use the undercard debate to their advantage. Preceding the major debate, it will not enjoy national attention, but it will be a perfect place to launch an opening salvo on the big ten without giving them a chance to rebut or defend their positions. If handled effectively, Kasich could dismantle Scott Walker’s bungling of Wisconsin’s employment numbers, an aspect with which he has had success in Ohio. Elder statesman, Lindsey Graham, who is barely polling at 0.8%, could gain ground questioning the maturity of Senator Rubio who has become increasingly absent from the Senate floor in favor of fundraising or the inexperience of Ben Carson who has no foreign policy experience.
This is all based on the flimsy premise that the August 6th event will be a substantive one and not a three-ring circus concerned more with ratings that rationale. Regardless of the tactics employed, the viable contenders for the GOP nomination will emerge and offer a clearer vision of the race to come.