Handicapping the GOP debate

And then there were ten.

To millions of Americans, the field for the Republican presidential nomination just got cut down to ten. Woe be to Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and the two Ricks – Perry and Santorum – because they may as well have dropped out. (In fact, it would not surprise me to see one or two of them throw in the towel by month’s end as their fundraising will likely dry up because the top ten will gain in the polls thanks to this exposure.)

If it were up to me, the format would have been different – a three-hour event featuring groups of five or six at a time. And if I were forced to pick a top ten based on my assessments of the candidates thus far, Carson, Christie, Kasich, and Trump would be out and Graham, Jindal, Perry, and Santorum would be in. I don’t like the idea of this event driving the polls, but it will.

Having said that, I think the debate can be useful if the right questions are asked. Let’s not have the “gotcha” questions – while I value the social issues, I figure that there will be sufficient time for five questions and (foreshadowing alert) my key issues are taxation, immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and the role of government. Let’s have some opportunities to allow candidates to differentiate themselves.

And I hope the bottom-feeders are savvy enough to answer these same questions in such a way to contrast themselves. For example, a guy like Rick Perry should have a good answer to a role of government question because he’s a firm believer in the Tenth Amendment. (Perry was the victim of John Kasich’s early momentum because he was 11th in the polling average, and Kasich was 10th.)

But I think I know how it will go, and the (literal) center stage will belong to The Donald. Frankly, I think a significant share of interest in this debate is of the same type that watches NASCAR racing waiting for the eighteen-car pileup. How will he handle the pressure of having to answer questions? If they put him in the middle and start at each end, he has a tremendous advantage because he can hear a few answers but not be the poor sap who has to sound like a broken record at the end.

Overshadowed in all this, though, is one key fact: we haven’t heard a peep about a Democratic debate, and Martin O’Malley is unhappy about it. Literally, they have not scheduled a date for one yet.

Naturally I don’t see the Democrats’ debate coming anywhere near Fox News, nor do I see anything but questions where the only real answer is how much they can pander to minorities, gays, union members, Radical Green, and whatever other splinter groups they cater to. E-mail, Benghazi, and foreign policy failures will be off-limits in those debates. But I do want to see how that clown car tries to play up the failure of the last six-plus years considering most of them (except Jim Webb) have been an active participant in some way.

So I may just have to watch tomorrow, if I can remember what channel Fox News is on.