November 12th, 2015 // 2:15 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Whether you like or dislike Hillary Clinton’s politics, she’s proven very effective in this year’s presidential debate. She knows policies forward and backward, on every topic that comes up in both domestic and foreign policy. She’s confident and sharp. She looks presidential to many on the Left and also to many independents.
So far, she’s been much better at debating than Jeb Bush or John Kasich. Donald Trump may improve, but to date he hasn’t shown any great debating skill either. As he puts it, this country needs a leader who will fix the economy and make the military strong again, not just another debater.
Trump has a lot of support for other reasons, but how he’ll do against Hillary on live TV has the Republican establishment concerned—even though his supporters say he’ll be much better in head-to-head matchups than with 8 or 10 people behind the podiums. Of course, the GOP establishment wouldn’t like Trump even if he were the best debater in history.
Likewise, the establishment doesn’t care much for Ben Carson. He isn’t the traditional debater by any means, but when he speaks, a lot of people stop and listen. It would be very interesting to see him debate Hillary Clinton. Who knows how such an event would go?
Many establishment types worry that in the Internet age (where most voters only see 1 or 2 clips from any debate, replayed over and over) Clinton would easily dominate against Carson, Trump, Rand Paul, Huckabee, and even Bush or Kasich. Whether this is accurate or not remains to be seen, but this is their concern.
That leaves establishment Republicans with four main choices: Christie, Fiorina, Rubio or Cruz. Neither Christie nor Fiorina has shown the ability to garner much support from either the GOP base or establishment. Some pundits also feel that Christie or Fiorina could come off looking too harsh against Hillary—perhaps winning on content but losing on likeability.
Many of the die-hard Republican establishment are now suggesting that the nomination may well come down to Rubio or Cruz. Both are very effective in the debates, and it is easy to picture either of them winning the general election sound-byte battle.
Rubio is young, energetic, knows the issues in depth and detail, polls well among women, Latinos, and swing-state voters, and is sharp, articulate, and good in a scrum. Many pundits predict he’d be especially effective on stage in a series of debates with Clinton. On paper, he’s just what the establishment is looking for (not quite as experienced at governing as Jeb or Kasich, but much better on the debate stage).
As for Cruz, the establishment hardly considered him a real candidate as recently as July. But after months of Trump and Carson leading the polls, they’re a lot more likely to stomach Cruz as the nominee. He has many of the same positives as Rubio, though he doesn’t poll as well among women, swing-state voters, or moderates. Plus he’s against the GOP establishment, not for it.
All this brings us back to a key question: In reality, aren’t Trump and Carson still ahead in many polls? The answer is yes. But a lot of establishment types are still convinced that neither Trump nor Carson will be the nominee. I disagree with their reasoning, because I think the voters will elect the person they want rather than follow the establishment’s recommendations.
But let’s just play along with the pundits for a minute and ask ourselves: if Trump or Carson isn’t the nominee, who will it most likely be? Five months ago, the overwhelming establishment answer to this question was Bush.
But that’s changed. With the image of multiple one-on-one debates against Hillary in their minds, many in the establishment have decided that Bush just won’t shine—while Rubio will.
If you’re not part of the establishment, none of this is particularly relevant to your view of the election. But it’s important to understand what is happening in the race, and why. Right now the specter of 2016 debates in the national spotlight against Hillary is reformatting the way GOP elites see the entire campaign.
That’s why the establishment now likes Rubio.
The truth is, this is all good for the Republican base. There’s a real chance in this election to finally elect a president who will actually reduce the national debt (which is now above $154,453 per tax payer), cut the size of government, and reboot the economy. A cynic will argue that this won’t happen no matter who gets elected, but there are candidates who are committed to this—and just might be able to pull it off.
It’s certainly worth a shot–because otherwise our country is in for a lot more painful decline.
If this election had gone the way the establishment predicted, with Bush sweeping the lead, the chance of real change would already be long gone. As it stands, a solid 60% of the GOP electorate wants a serious, major change in Washington and the White House. When they get down to actually voting, we’ll see how it all shakes out.
But there’s still a chance.