Big Pressure on at Tonight’s Republican Presidential Nomination Debate
It’s big pressure time for GOPers dreaming of the day when they can move into the Oval Office in January 2017. The race is not as static as it was during the last debate: some of those on the way down remain mired there, some of those expected to perform may have their last chance, and there now appears to be an authentic battle for two Republicans for frontrunner status.
NBC’s Chuck Todd and Mike Murray give an excellent run down in today’s edition of First Read:
Donald Trump: No longer first in all of the state or national polls, can Trump actually handle losing? Last night’s rally in Iowa was, well, interesting: He almost begged the voters to improve his poll position. “Iowa, will you get your numbers up, please?” he said, per NBC’s Ali Vitali. “Will you get these numbers up? I promise you I will do such a good job.”
Ben Carson: Now maybe your new frontrunner in the GOP race, can Carson hold up to the scrutiny, tougher questions, and incoming from rivals that are surely coming his way?
Jeb Bush: As we wrote earlier this week, no one on tonight’s stage is under more pressure to deliver than Bush is. We are approaching make-or-break time for the former GOP frontrunner.
Marco Rubio: After two earlier solid performances, Rubio comes into tonight’s debate as arguably the GOP establishment’s new favorite — and after some rough news coverage about his day job as a U.S. senator. In fact, the Florida Sun-Sentinel called on him to resign if he longer is casting votes.” If you hate your job, senator, follow the honorable lead of House Speaker John Boehner and resign it. Let us elect someone who wants to be there and earn an honest dollar for an honest day’s work.” Wow. Don’t be surprised if some GOP candidates not named Jeb (John Kasich, Chris Christie) go after Rubio here.
John Kasich: Can the Ohio governor deliver on his “Bulworth”/Howard Beale moment of sorts yesterday? “What has happened to our party? What has happened to the conservative movement?” he asked at a rally in Ohio.
Carly Fiorina: She was arguably the star of the last GOP debate, but has since retreated into obscurity. Can she prove she still belongs on the main stage?
Ted Cruz: Can he actually be a PRESENCE at tonight’s debate — after largely being overshadowed in the previous two? He can no longer wait for the campaign to come to him.
Chris Christie: Speaking of big presences, we’re approaching desperation time for Chris Christie, whose poll numbers remain stuck in the single digits. At the previous debate, he clawed and fought like it might be his last one. He’ll have to have the same attitude tonight.
Rand Paul: It’s desperation time for the Kentucky senator, too. And tonight’s debate comes a day after Paul promised to filibuster the recently concluded budget deal. But there’s just one small hitch, per NBC’s Frank Thorp: The rules will allow him to speak for just one hour, and only more than that if another senator yields him time. Bottom line: It won’t be a situation where he gets to speak for hours-on-end.
Mike Huckabee: The best debater of the 2008 cycle has become almost an afterthought in the previous two debates. Can Huckabee finally seize a moment tonight?
I’d argue that the two in biggest political damage are Rubio and Bush. This surely will be Bush’s last chance before he becomes more of a comedian’s punchline than he hs becoming. The operative question still is whether the 2015 Republican Party is buying the NEW! IMPROVED! JEB! product that he is selling, which is still comprised of ingredients from two past products by the same company. And Rubio’s talk about how he hates the Senate could put him on the defensive and even provide the equivalent of a comedian’s “callback” joke (a joke that is repeated several times and a technique used quite often by David Letterman).
Trump and Carson need to gain more ground and hold what they have; the rest of the pack needs to gain more ground. If Bush sags tonight, get ready to read stories that are political obituaries.
FOOTNOTE: TMV will have a roundup on debate reaction after the debate. There will be a major update of it at least twice during the night.