The Way the Wind is Blowing for the Next Debate

The next debate should be about economics, which is what most people care about.  It is the last and best opportunity for candidates to make a name for themselves or to implode completely.  And the wind is blowing strongly in favor of six of them.

This election season is starting to get really interesting.  The Democrats are down to two candidates and an also-ran.  I am not prepared to call that race because there are enough people that hate Hillary that she will never walk away in a landslide.

Now the Republican party is down to a three-on-three of outsiders Trump/Carson/Fiorina vs insiders Rubio/Cruz/BushKasich.  I think it is simply too early to call the game, as each group of supporters is cheering for their favorite and declaring the other players to have lost.  But there are some tailwinds and headwinds blowing.

Prior to 1995, the popular media had the only game in town.  Between 1995-2010, the popular media fought to retain hegemony.  I can still remember in 2000 and 2004 when CNN political analyst Bill Schneider called the election for Gore and then, more cautiously, Kerry.

Gradually people have started shifting their information sources to those much more aligned with their beliefs.  As a result, there is a tendency for people to reinforce their own particular viewpoints.  There is also a tendency for “gotchas” to sink candidacies.  Gary Hart, Ross Perot, Sargent Shriver, John Edwards, etc., all had their candidacies impacted by facts made public.  If JFK were a candidate today, he would have a much different set of issues with which to contend.

If anything, what makes politicians like Clinton more successful is their ability to spin information in their favor.  Seasoned politicians tend to run more effective campaigns.  Negative campaigning has been a part of politics since its advent, but the key is negative in the eyes of whom?  In a general election, you only care about a) people who are going to pull the lever who b) can be persuaded to pull it for more than one person or c) can be persuaded not to pull it at all.  If you can convince people that an election will be a landslide, some voters will stay home on both sides.  If you can convince people that they cannot vote for their favored candidate, they might not.

I feel strongly that the Democratic party faces a tougher time than we do.  They have two candidates, neither of whom are compelling.  They are both older and in many ways, each has damaging baggage.  There can be no sense of excitement as they both reflect the 60’s and a number of discredited principles.

On the Republican side, many voters are not yet even paying attention.  My unscientific analysis is that whenever I read the news, the coverage is mostly Trump and Bush, followed by everyone else.  After the next debate, and before the one after that, we should see at least two candidates drop out.  The writing is on the wall.  My assumption is that Trump and Carson will take the most shots from the others.  It will be Bush’s last hurrah.  If he does not wipe the floor with the others, I think he will drop out and throw his entire weight behind anyone other than Trump/Carson/Fiorina.

I think this debate is a critical one for each of the top six.  For Trump, it will either reinforce doubts or allow him to demonstrate he is not just all talk.  For Carson, he must demonstrate he can become a retail politician and that he understands policy.  For Fiorina, she must remind voters of her skills and also her ability to match up against Clinton, her presumptive opponent.  For Rubio, he must reinforce his status as the favored establishment candidate who also is conservative.  For Cruz, he must show the ability to persuade people that being a fighter is an asset in the general.  For BushKasich, they must demonstrate some reason that people should give them any further thought.

If this debate does not go Trump’s way, I predict he will drop out.  He wants to be a winner and he can declare victory and take credit after it.  If he wins the debate, I think he will be formidable the rest of the way.  Either way, I think the debate is a catalyst for him.

I frankly don’t understand what any of the other candidates are doing.  They have such long odds, it really doesn’t make much sense.  Maybe they think everyone else will implode.  Maybe their donors have left them enough to crawl on.  Who knows?