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Monday, November 9, 2015

by Reed Galen

Days Until Iowa Caucus: 83

Quote by A Smart Person: "Courage is grace under pressure." Ernest Hemingway

Welcome to the American Singularity.

Why the Singularity?

•    The presidential nominating process is one in which everything, large and small, is sucked into its gravitational maw, allowing nothing to escape its grasp as events pass through the campaign cycle’s event horizon.
•    There is no more singular political experience on the planet than electing the President of the United States.
•    The United States is still the most free, most prosperous and brightest beacon of hope to billions around the world.

Every action and reaction feeds into this black hole of press coverage, donor reactions, voter sentiment and activist opinions. Nothing goes unnoticed and nothing is forgotten. Legions of reporters, bloggers, opposition researchers, trackers, social media monitoring services, vacuum up every last syllable.

Every week we’ll take a look at the campaign as it unfolds, and how events reflect the campaigns, the issues of the day and the country at large. Have a tip, piece of advice or something to add? Email me – reed@jedburghs.com

The American Singularity - Insert: Milwaukee GOP Debate Preview

Tuesday night’s GOP debate provides the last close up look at the candidates before we start the holiday season. In professional golf, they call the Saturday round “Moving Day” because the competitors need to set themselves up for the final push. During this week’s debate, those candidates who hope to make it back to the main stage and those who hope to stay their need to show they’re able to handle the pressure.

The Host with the Most

After the unmitigated disaster that was the CNBC debate last month, this month’s host, the Fox Business Channel has made a lot of noise about ensuring they’ll ask substantive questions. Moderator Maria Bartiromo (formerly of CNBC) knows her stuff on the economy, business and finance. Along with long-time Fox News fixture Neil Cavuto, I expect their questions to be more respectful than those asked by CNBC in October, but I don’t believe they’ll be any easier on the candidates. I hope they press the field on their stated positions and for others, like Dr. Ben Carson, attempt to explore just exactly what some of their policy prescriptions actually are.


Governors Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee find themselves relegated to the earlier, less-heralded contest due to Fox Business’ decision to only take eight candidates in the prime time event. While likely disappointing for both camps, Christie has appeared to be on the verge of achieving orbit in recent weeks. I expect that the Garden State Governor will once again deliver a solid performance, albeit against generally inferior talent. Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum need to develop a rationale why they should continue being invited to the debates, even the kids’ table event, if they are unable to garner any real momentum politically or in surveys.

In a sad development, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina didn't make the cut for the undercard event. That's a shame. Although his performances have been inconsistent, his voice will be missed on Tuesday night.

Main Event

The winnowing process has begun. Although the overall field remains a bloated 15 candidates, the network sponsors have begun ratcheting up the requirements to be on the main stage. Tuesday night will feature the top eight GOP contenders. And with two less voices scratching for time, those competing will have an opportunity to make their case more often, but they will also have more time to fill.

For those candidates with substantive policy ideas and backgrounds, it provides a bigger window to showcase their ideas. Donald Trump may surprise in this debate. If Fox Business truly makes Tuesday night predominantly about economics, Trump can rely on his history of business success to make specific points. He can rely on his more vitriolic (and popular with his supporters) views about Mexico and China to round out his presentation and keep the faithful fired up.

For Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Rand Paul, they need to reignite the fire of their campaigns on Tuesday. Paul has been polling in the single digits for months and is just barely on the stage. Kasich has built a small base of support in New Hampshire but has so far failed to eclipse Bush in the Establishment lane of the GOP. And for Jeb Bush, he must make Milwaukee his showcase moment of 2015. Beaten and battered since the Boulder debate, Bush has another do or die event before him.

Random Thoughts

Last week’s kerfuffle over various pieces of Ben Carson’s origin story shows why it is so difficult for untested and un-vetted candidates to rise in a presidential contest. It also spotlights a gaping issue within the American publishing industry: Doesn’t anyone fact-check non-fiction anymore? C’mon guys. Most importantly for Carson, though, is how quickly conservative media leapt to his defense.

Marco Rubio deftly navigated a couple of week’s worth of opposition research dumps and attacks by his opponents and the media. While I’m sure Rubio would like to go back in time and decline the Florida GOP’s offer of a credit card, the squabbles around it appear to be overblown. Is he the Teflon candidate of 2016?

And finally, kudos to the Hillary Clinton campaign, and their subsidiary, the Democratic National Committee, for hosting a “candidate forum” on a Friday night at 8 pm. What better way to make sure that only 52 people outside those actually in the event hall were actually listening to any of the crazy things the candidates might have said in their quest for the White House.

AuthorReed Galen