EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is a guest post by Paul R. Hollrah, a resident of Oklahoma who writes from the perspective of a veteran conservative politico and retired corporate government relations executive whose life experience includes having served two terms as a member of the Electoral College. Even if you disagree with him, this piece will make you think long and hard.
The Republican National Committee plans to conduct at least nine debates in the 2015-16 presidential primary season, the first of which will be held at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Aug. 6, 2015. The debate will be co-sponsored by Fox News and Facebook and moderated by Fox News Channel anchors, Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace. And although the RNC is determined to hold far fewer debates than the twenty held during the 2012 primary season, the party has left the door open to the possibility of up to three additional debates if the need arises.
In a July 28 column, Kristol Clear Straw Poll #5, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol expresses what a great many people have been thinking, which is that the GOP debate format agreed to by Fox News and the RNC falls far short of the ideal.
Fox News has announced that, in order to avoid having as many as 16 candidates on the stage at one time, each vying for their share of face-time before the a national TV audience, they will limit the number of candidates to ten. Those candidates will be the top ten candidates taken from an average of the five most recent national polls… the polls to be selected by Fox.
According to one analysis of five recent national polls, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Scott Walker are almost certain to be selected, while the two remaining slots will be filled by either Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rick Perry or Rick Santorum. Carly Fiorina, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham, each polling at roughly one percent, are apparently out of the running for the first debate.
Kristol has issued a fervent plea to Fox News and the RNC. He asks that they please abandon the “poorly-conceived ten-person, one-main-stage format” while there is still time. He argues that there simply will not be a “statistically significant difference between the 8th through 10th place finishers and the 11th through 13th places.” I would argue that there is insufficient reason to arbitrarily exclude any six of the 16 candidates. Kristol suggests that, out of fairness, the sponsors change the format to two eight-person debates, to be held on successive nights, or, in the alternative, two five-person debates and one six-person debate on three successive nights.
In order to demonstrate how the single ten-person debate would deny primary voters the opportunity to discover what some of the best, most capable, but lesser known candidates have to offer, I have developed a rating system which, as objectively as possible, points to some significant strengths and weaknesses in the candidates that the casual observer might overlook.
The rating system I have developed utilizes six separate factors: eligibility, personal appeal, experience, directness, the Trump factor and position on the issues, each scored on a scale of one to ten. (The “Trump Factor” being a measure of the extent to which each candidate has either adhered to or ignored Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, re: the Trump candidacy.)
A quick analysis of the sixteen candidates produces the following results:
Using the above analytical format, the participants in the August 6th debate would be, in order of ranking: 1) Carly Fiorina, 2) Mike Huckabee, 3) Scott Walker, 4) Donald Trump, 5) Ben Carson, 6) John Kasich, 7) Chris Christie, 8) Rand Paul, 9) Marco Rubio and 10) Rick Perry. Those watching the debate on TV would be, in order: 11) George Pataki, 12) Lindsey Graham, 13) Ted Cruz, 14) Rick Santorum, 15) Bobby Jindal and 16) Jeb Bush. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore has just announced and cannot be properly evaluated.
What is most interesting about the admittedly subjective analysis is that former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who regularly polls at 2% or less because she lacks name recognition, comes out tied for first place with Mike Huckabee, each winning 56 out of a possible 60 points, while Jeb Bush, the darling of the mainstream media and establishment Republicans, comes in dead last. Bush comes in last because: 1) he is not an appealing candidate, 2) he was one of the first to openly criticize Donald Trump and 3) he has a history of pandering to liberal special interests.
To date, only three of the sixteen candidates have distinguished themselves from the others. Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee have unabashedly taken the fight to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, while Donald Trump has created a firestorm with his straight-from-the-shoulder characterization of many of the illegal aliens streaming across our southern border.
What is clear is that the same not-dry-behind-the-ears incompetents who’ve managed Republican presidential campaigns since Reagan left the White House are still hanging around Washington, just waiting to see how many more presidential campaigns they can screw up. In the past two weeks they have blindly led at least seven or eight of the establishment candidates to deal with the Trump campaign in the most counterproductive way, saying some really dumb things about a totally fearless man who can always be counted upon to deliver more punishment than he receives… proving once again that it’s not always a good idea to poke at a hornets’ nest.
The Washington inside-the-Beltway political consultants are unaccustomed to honesty and forthrightness in campaign rhetoric and Donald Trump, a breath of fresh air, is now conducting a graduate seminar for them. As a case in point, two young female guests on The O’Reilly Factor on Monday evening, July 27… young women who were not alive when Ronald Reagan was president, but who now market themselves as knowledgeable campaign strategists… were both asked how the other candidates should react to Trump’s surge in the polls. True to their training, both provided the only answer they knew. They said, “It’s time for them to go on the attack. They need to go negative.” That is precisely what Trump’s opponents should not do.
What GOP establishment candidates totally ignore is the fact that Americans, in general, and conservatives and Republicans in particular, have been yearning for nearly thirty years for a presidential candidate with the courage to “tell it like it is.” They’ve longed for a conservative willing to take on the mainstream media, bare-knuckled, a leader with enough “rough edges” on him/her to scare the crap out of liberals and Democrats, both inside and outside the mainstream media. For now, at least, Donald Trump looks like a man who fits that description, although if his approach to campaigning has had any impact at all on more conventional Republicans, the GOP debates may yet uncover another contender or two.
In the meantime, while the establishment candidates are busy attacking one of their own, Mike Huckabee and Carly Fiorina are out there doing “the Lord’s work,” exposing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the frauds they are. But if Trump’s method and message fails to teach the establishment a few powerful lessons, then it looks as if some of us old “graybeards,” veterans of the Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan campaigns, will be forced to come out of retirement to show them how it’s done.
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