Monday, December 14, 2015
by Reed Galen
Days Until Iowa Caucus: 49
Quote by A Smart Person: "Power and wealth are not two of my main stakes.” Ratan Tata
Welcome to the American Singularity.
Tale of the Tape
A lot has happened since the last time the GOP candidates for president gathered for a debate. In some ways, the world has changed yet again, thereby shaping the campaign to its direction. While the economy is still (and should be) a major issue, terrorism, radical Islam, and ISIS specifically are top of mind. Paris and San Bernardino radically shifted the subject of the debate but hasn’t apparently shifted its dynamic in many surprising ways.
As the 12 remaining qualified candidates takes the stage on Tuesday night, security, the 2nd Amendment, immigration, due process and the role of the United States in the world will accompany them. They’ve been placed into a rare issue-matrix blender and created the smoothie from hell for campaigns and candidates.
And for campaigns not able to garner earned media support or pay for paid media to sustain their name ID, this is the last chance they have to impress Republican voters writ large before the subnivean zone (h/t Wild Kratts this morning) of late December and early January fully takes hold.
High Rollers Room
Nine contenders will face off in the big enchilada Tuesday night at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. Governor John Kasich and Senator Rand Paul will again round out the wings and Governor Chris Christie has returned to the cool kids’ lunch table with a solid November. If there is anything that the 2015 primary has taught us, it’s that if you can secure even a small amount of support nationally or in an early state, you can stay in front of a national audience. Should Hillary Clinton win the White House next November, I predict there will be 72 GOP candidates running in 2019.
The GOP’s 19th Nervous Breakdown
Donald Trump’s stance on Muslim’s entering the United States will be front and center Tuesday. Most of the other candidates will be asked about it in one way or another. And their instinct, like last week, will be to denounce Trump’s plan as un-American and un-Constitutional. In this instance, most of the non-Trump candidates are stuck between a Donald and a Hard Place. Many Republican primary voters, 65% according to Bloomberg, agree with Trump’s plan. Should the Establishment candidates lambaste Donald, they may find themselves again caught in the spin cycle that is the 2015 primary election. Their opinions and positions are the right ones to win the election next November. However, based on the public research we’re seeing, we’re dealing with an anxious and angry GOP base. Those early-state voters may well see Establishment attacks on Donald as one more example of why they can’t be trusted.
Float Like a Bee
Last week someone recorded Senator Ted Cruz at an event saying that neither Donald Trump nor Ben Carson has the judgment to be President. Just yesterday, Donald Trump responded by saying that Cruz is a maniac and he too lacks the judiciousness to sit in the Oval Office.
This development is a huge opportunity for Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio’s strengths have been excellent debate performances, avoiding unnecessary fights and remaining Establishment Washington’s last great hope to not lose 38 states. Rubio should not duck a fight, nor should he go looking for one in Vegas. Pushing Trump to number two in Iowa makes Cruz is now Public Enemy #1 in Donald’s mind. Rubio should continue to absorb the incoming and respond in the positive and definitive way only he has been able to pull off debate over debate.
The House of Sheldon
ISIS is evil and must be destroyed. Israel is a democracy and a force for good in the Middle East and must be protected. Sheldon Adelson, proprietor of the Venetian Hotel and Casino and major domo of the GOP believes these things with every fiber of his being. Any candidate who does not agree within the 90th percentile of this is unlikely to engender his support. We should also expect that the crowd on Tuesday night will be made up of many of Mr. Adelson’s friends. There is a lot for a hopeful General Election candidate to step in with Adelson and the assembled crowd. Boos should not be unexpected.
Hitting the Progressive
Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and George Pataki have to make a move this week. Graham’s hawkish and substantive rhetoric is not breaking through. Huckabee and Santorum, once both darlings of the evangelical community in Iowa and beyond have been left behind for newer models. For Pataki, this may be his last tilt at the windmill. As much as I hate to admit it, the Rockefeller wing of the GOP is dead and gone. If any of them hope to do well electorally come February 1st, they’ll need to make some noise and impress the much smaller audience likely to be watching.
The last time Donald Trump was really the target of the field was September. He will be again Tuesday night. Expect him to continue his personal attacks on those he doesn’t believe have the standing to take him on, and to redouble his efforts on Cruz. The DC GOP Establishment is right to be worried. If Trump goes four for four in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada (a long shot admittedly) he will be in excellent position to winnow the field come the March 1st Super Tuesday primary election. Cruz must defend himself without alienating the Trumpistas. Rubio must avoid their melee if possible. Jeb, Christie and Kasich must try and be the adults in the room one more time. Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina are the wild cards. They’re whip smart and able to take the bark off those above them in the polls. If they don’t do it on Tuesday, they may not have another chance.