by Jay Lawson
Republican Party candidates debated yet again on Tuesday, Decem-ber 15. Following are my personal observations.
Full disclosure: I enjoy presidential campaigns, in that they reveal a lot about our citizenry. I am not a devotee of any political party. I consider myself a Political Individualist in the John Lockean tradition. If any of my views mirror those of an established ideology, it is purely coincidental, and I will strive to fix the problem.
Jeb Bush. I must admit, three years ago, before anyone announced their candidacies, I saw Jeb Bush as the best hope for the Republicans in 2016.
The electoral map being what it is, the Republicans need a candidate that appeals to minorities; and Jeb fits that.
He has always been an exceedingly talented politician. But today, for some reason, he looks tired. He looks spent. It’s telling that an energy transfusion from Bernie Sanders—a candidate 12 years his senior—would be a marked improvement.
I was kind of optimistic about Jeb’s candidacy (mainly because he seemed competitive, on paper), as were many establishment financiers apparently. They threw millions behind him in support.
But it became clear fast that, though the electoral wave was cresting, Jeb was hopelessly on its backside.
How did someone of his pedigree get so far removed from the presidential campaign landscape of any season? Shocking.
As for his debate performance, he spent way too much time trying to sell the true meaning of leadership. Writers know it’s best to show, not tell. And at three percent in the polls, Jeb’s testimonial on leadership was hardly compelling… Some-thing Donald Trump was all too happy to point out. Ouch. Debate Rule #1: Don’t hand your opponent a sledgehammer.
Advice to Jeb: Update the playbook; call Bill Belichick.
Ted Cruz. I know he’s polling well and has been gaining support, but Cruz is hit or miss for me.
He’s a great debater, and his skills can be fun to watch. Unfortunately the presidential debate stage is not the purest of the debate forums; it’s more of a showcase. One that may or may not go awry.
So, while Cruz is adept at scoring tactical points, I don’t know that they always translate to “audience points.”
Also (admittedly I’m being shallow here) Cruz has this “look.” To me, anyway. The pale skin, the dark lips, the guy-liner… the chiseled chin… When I look at him, I keep picturing one of those silent-movie cowboys. I see him in an oversized Tom Mix hat and a pair of furry, black-and-white chaps. Is it just me?
Donald Trump. His campaign has been genius—from a tactical standpoint. He has been a key player at every step.
He has been flawless in leveraging a celebrity persona, business acumen, and a rebellious nature.
He has had numerous missteps, but zagged while everyone else was zigging in predictable formation. And he has broken from the pack, currently holding his biggest leads.
He thumbs his nose at everyone, and a lot of voters seem to like it. He saw opportunity to exploit the system, and he has executed brilliantly. He blindsided his political opponents and has made the media oracles look clueless.
On the debate stage, he makes some bizarro facial expressions that I don’t care for. I think his schoolyard bully routine can be appalling.
As he is a successful businessman, I wish he would channel more of that persona. Too often, he succumbs to his reality TV excesses.
At some point he needs to prove that he is both in control of himself and that he is sufficiently responsible to be president—even if he doesn’t always act that way.
If somebody asked me, “Would you vote for him?”
I don’t know what I’d say. I can’t even wrap my head around it.
Dr. Ben Carson. The multiple-candidate (nine in this case) debate setting does not favor Dr. Carson, and on Tuesday it was particularly unforgiving.
One on one, he’s great, and his intellect is undeniable.
During this primary season, Carson has had his opportunities to shine, even having led the polls. Right now though, Trump and Cruz are jousting for the top spot, with a second-tier of candidates in the wings, hoping for an upper-tier implosion.
Carson needs momentum to stay there, but revving that up is not his strong suit. Marco might have that second tier to himself soon. That’s a coveted spot.
Marco Rubio. I have a hard time seeing anyone but Marco Rubio getting the Republican nomination.
There had been a long string of presidential cycles where Democrats excitedly nominated candidates that got trounced on election day.
Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter 2.0, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis…
The Republicans risk a similar slump, if they nominate anyone but Marco Rubio. I don’t see another candidate posing a challenge to Ms. Clinton.
And with today’s polling capabilities and advanced computer models, a trouncing could be identified as early as August.
If you want to remove money from politics, that’s the way to do it. Put forward a candidate that has zero statistical chance of winning. Then the money will stay home. On both sides. So will the voters.
Carly Fiorina. I like her knowledge and understanding of issues. But she can stop talking about Putin now. She met him once or something, so she repeatedly makes the point that she can put him in his place. Point noted; let’s move on.
She gives great interviews and does well on the debate stage. I think she’s an impressive candidate and am surprised she’s not polling better. She’s a regular person that doesn’t come across like one. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe she could use a dash of something that resembles a relaxed sense of humor.
Chris Christie. He is a former prosecutor, he says. He’s a tough guy, he says. He has no stomach for corruption, he says.
Yet, whenever I see Christie, I think of Bridgegate, and his failure to control his people or hold them accountable.
I see the oversized kid jumping up and down in the private NFL owner’s box of Jerry Jones, shunning his state’s local team and cheering for the rival Dallas Cowboys.
He was present at that game, because he had accepted free tickets and a free private jet flight from Cowboy owner Jones.
Jones, as it turns out, partially owns a company that had benefited from a Port Authority contract awarded by Christie’s state of New Jersey and New York.
In claiming there was no ethics violation, Christie sliced the baloney thin enough to read through.
What does this have to do with Tuesday’s debate? When I see Chris Christie talking tough, railing against government corruption, that’s what I think of.
John Kasich, the well-liked Governor of Ohio. I have always liked John Kasich, going back to his years in Congress. Seems like a quality guy, very nice. Not a mean-spirited bone in his body.
But he seems as frustrated as anyone at Donald Trump’s inexhaustive chewing of the political scenery. Unfor-tunately Kasich’s nice-guy response has been exceedingly whiny, making him sound desperate and hardly presidential. Not good.
Rand Paul. Long before anyone announced, Rand Paul was expected to be a heavyweight in the current primary. He was heir apparent to the constituency his father, Ron Paul, had built.
Libertarianism has traditionally been a simple concept: You leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone.
But in the age of terrorist threats and government surveillance, Libertarianism’s commonsense principles seem to be lacking. Every idea, every solution, engenders a downside.
Currently this country is pressing its wants and needs like tectonic plates, trying to force a sweet-spot between personal freedom and public safety.
Rand Paul and his ideology don’t speak well to that concern.
Libertarianism may not be dead, but voters in 2016 have certainly back-burnered it.
Lindsay Graham. Has yet to attract his way to the main debate stage, which is puzzling.
He is smart, experienced, articulate, and is likeable, while being a ruthless attacker of opposing Democrats.
His drawback is that many compare him to John McCain, a moderate Republican who was never embraced by the party’s base.
Graham must have other drawbacks too, based on his astonishing lack of support. He is polling at nearly zero percent. Not even popular in his own state.
George Pataki. Lindsay Graham’s gutter mate. Campaign slogan should be “George Pataki: Why?”