Until next time,
Marco Rubio is having his fifteen minutes (we’ll momentarily ignore the irony that everyone getting their fifteen minutes of fame is fundamentally a socialist concept) and this has led to a consensus that he’s emerging as the GOP’s anti-Trump and most likely to win the nomination at this point. I remain a bit skeptical, simply because the GOP field has a habit of going through repetitive cycles where one of its candidates surges and then falls apart a few weeks later.
At the moment, Marco’s eating into Trump’s support in New Hampshire and already lining up support in other early states but for the moment at least his road to the nomination remains long. New Hampshire is a primary state, meaning the polling on that state is going to be more accurate because the primary itself is more straightforward: people walk into voting booths and pull a lever for their preference. That means there’s a good chance Trump is more likely to win in New Hampshire then he ever was in Iowa.
I think the big difference coming out of Iowa for the GOP is the money factor. No one in the GOP donor class is acting as if Rubio’s third place finish in Iowa is going to make the primary significantly less painful for Republicans, at least not yet (that may change if Rubio takes a close second somehow in NH). But it does signal to the donor class that Rubio is now a viable candidate, worthy of an ever-growing share of their financial attention, and that definitely makes a difference. GOP donors have so far stayed out of their party’s primary, presumably because they didn’t see a promising investment yet and wanted to wait until at least one contest was finished as a way of taking the Republican primary electorate’s pulse. But I think that’ll start to change. I think a lot of donors are beginning to decide they see a pulse in a Rubio candidacy and are becoming increasingly ready to go all-in for him.
Hopefully, that’s not the case. Because if there’s one thing that could be worse for the country than a Texas Republican, it’s a Florida Republican.
The third Republican presidential debate is set to begin tonight. With fewer then ninety days before the symbolically but not particularly politically meaningful Iowa Caucuses, the media has decided this debate is going to matter. Politico has already come out with its list of “five things to watch” during the debate. As with all Politico articles on the subject of presidential debates it follows the same formula of posing the same several rhetorical questions:
-Is this month’s break out candidate going to have a star performance or fizzle out and die?
-Who should have given up already and why haven’t they? Bonus points if there’s a push poll asking who should drop out at the end of the debate at the bottom of the article.
-Which candidate’s backstory still needs to be covered?
-What juicy personal exchanges should we all be eagerly looking forward to?
That about covers the Politico presidential debate article formula. It doesn’t get any more complicated; they clearly don’t want readers venturing into some kind of discomfort zone where they may think critically about the candidates and about how infantile these debates have been so far.
Republicans this cycle may have, in fact, killed off the American love affair with the presidential debate, and even if they haven’t yet I personally hope they do. With a few exceptions, performance in a debate is a miserable metric with which to judge whether a presidential candidate will make an adequate leader of the free world. Questions about the job itself are rarely if ever asked. Instead we have to put up with questions about the various candidates’ levels of experience, which given that none of them has been president before seems pretty irrelevant. We must endure pointless lightning rounds where candidates are forced to answer yes or no questions. We must gaze on as the tribe of old white men who command the conservative movement like televangelists in a revivalist tent clutch the edges of their podiums and blather on about how they agree on every question but are still somehow substantially different in political philosophy than their opponents.
Really the whole thing is a waste of time. This debate, like the two before it, will tell us absolutely nothing about the Republican candidates for president except perhaps remind us all of how unbelievably out of touch they really are.