Tuesday, December 15, 2015
There will be another Republican presidential debate tonight. It will feature approximately 112 candidates. The Democratic debates have one debater and two on-stage spectators but they are no less fascinating.
From a public speaking standpoint, I'd rate Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton as the winners so far but being the GOP debate winner does not always translate into being the winner of the nomination. Rubio is a close call when debaters like Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and You Know Who are on the stage.
Donald Trump is almost impossible to rate since the power of his personality skews the system. [Read A.J. Liebling's The Earl Of Louisiana about Earl Long's debate performances and the similarity will jump out. Who watches the other candidates when Uncle Earl is fanning himself and catching flies?]
To date, the Democratic debates have been unusual because of a pronounced reluctance on the part of Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley to go after Hillary Clinton. I watched them and wondered if they really wanted to win the nomination. They are in a position where a draw or even a minor win is a loss. Each needs a decisive "wow" moment. The heavy artillery will have to come out in the next debate or it's definitely "game over." That may already be the case.
In general, the front-runners don't like debates because such forums are fraught with risks. [Gerald Ford "liberated" Poland in a debate with Jimmy Carter and saw his advantage on foreign policy evaporate.] On the other hand, a candidate who slips through the primaries by having few debates can be disadvantaged by lack of practice if he or she encounters a battle-tested opponent in the general election campaign.
Regardless of your political leanings, you are missing high drama if you don't watch the debates. They are the closest thing to Shakespeare that you'll find in prime time.
Posted by Michael Wade at 7:25 PM