GOP Debate

Left to Right: Brett Baier, Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace (Source: Fox News)

The first debate of the 2016 Republican Presidential candidates is to occur tomorrow in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s to be jointly hosted by Facebook and Fox News in conjunction with the Ohio Republican party. It will screen at 9-11 pm EST on Fox News (1-3 pm Friday 7 August NZT). It will be jointly moderated by Fox News hosts Brett Baier (Special Report), Megyn Kelly (The Kelly File) and Chris Wallace (Fox News Sunday).

The Republican field for president is huge – it numbers seventeen national candidates, and back in May it was already clear this would be the case. (There are at least another twenty candidates who aren’t running in all states.) Because of this Fox News announced some criteria for candidates to qualify for the debate, which would limit the number on the stage to the top ten.

The criteria were announced by Fox News executive vice president of News Editorial Michael Clemente:

They must meet all constitutional requirements; must announce and register a formal campaign; must file all required paperwork with the Federal Election Commission; and must place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent, recognized national polls leading up to Aug. 4.

The various candidates responded to this differently. Rick Santorum immediately complained; within 24 hours of the announcement, he was declaring the criteria “arbitrary” and “unfair”. The criteria results in him being excluded from the main debate, but because there are so many serious candidates in the second tier, Fox News has decided to hold a second debate earlier in the evening. It will screen at 9am Friday morning NZT, 5pm Thursday EST. Another candidate whose poll results have seen her excluded is Carly Fiorina, but her response to the criteria was far more presidential; she simply said she’d have to work hard to make sure she was in the top ten. She has more than tripled her percentage since then, but unfortunately for her, it’s still not enough.

The latest Fox News poll, released 3 August, shows Donald Trump getting more than a quarter of the votes:

GOP Candidate Preference 2Aug2015

Who will be the next president of the United States is important to all of us, as whoever that is becomes one of the most powerful people in the world.

The announcement of who would make the stage was made by the hosts/moderators yesterday. During the announcement my opinion of Megyn Kelly went up significantly. She dared to make this wonderful comment:

“Well, I’ll tell you one thing Brett, … the one thing I’m disappointed about is that somehow Huckabee landed in the top ten, and as the viewers all know, I’m really hoping I don’t have to actually introduce him.”

When he’s appeared on her show in the past, she’s accidentally pronounced his name, “Fuckabee”. Now you don’t do that unless it’s a word you’ve used before, and frequently!

The average of the polls gave the following result (Fox News did not announce the percentages for all candidates):

Top 10 GOP First Debate 2015

That’s going to give a stage that looks something like this:

Top Ten GOP 1st Debate 2015

As always, some of the leading contenders in the Republican party are simply scary. Here they are:

Bush, Jeb FB

Jeb Bush on Facebook

Jeb Bush
Bush has the potential to be a reasonable president, and certainly better than his brother. He has quite a few features that will make it difficult for many Republicans to support him early on – they see him as being too liberal and weak on immigration in particular. However, the Republican party cannot win the White House without getting a much bigger proportion of the Hispanic vote than they have in the last two elections, and Bush is one of the few Republicans who can do this. At this stage, he is my prediction to win the nomination.

Carson, Ben

Ben Carson (Source:

Ben Carson
Carson makes an effort to retain a good bedside manner at all times, but personally I see his candidacy as a bit of a joke. He won’t win the nomination, and America is better off without him anywhere near the presidency. He was clearly an excellent neurosurgeon, and is highly intelligent, but that didn’t help his critical thinking ability in several areas. He’s tripped up a few times in his public statements – one in particular that didn’t go down well was, “Obamacare is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”

Further, I’m completely bemused how someone with his educational background can retain his belief in Creationism and worse, that the End Times are imminent. It seems to me he’s receiving advice some very persuasive but ignorant people that he’s blindly trusting. On Fox News’s Special Report on Friday he said how well he understood foreign policy, then immediately stated that all foreign aid should be stopped because America couldn’t afford it. So, no Dr Carson, you clearly don’t understand foreign policy. He reluctantly and unconvincingly conceded though that maybe America could still support Israel after a great deal of prompting from the panel. I can’t help but wonder if those advisors I mentioned not only believe in Armageddon, but are trying to bring it about.

Obama and ChristieChris Christie
The Governor of New Jersey is struggling to gain traction in the primaries. The biggest problem seems to be that he embraced and even praised Obama when seeking funding and other help in the recovery of his state following Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. If I was a Republican supporter, I’d see Christie’s relationship with Obama as a positive. His job is governor, and his job is to do the best for his state. The superstorm killed at least 233 people and did an estimated US$68 billion of damage. It destroyed the lives of thousands, but many in the Republican party see Christie asking Obama for help as a betrayal.

Because of the “Obama hug” Christie wasn’t invited to the next Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which is virtually a must attend in GOP circles. This kind of petty small-mindedness is what is destroying the Republican party from within. The truth is Christie did an enormous amount during the last presidential campaign in support of Mitt Romney, raising a lot of money for his campaign and travelling to 26 states to support him. It was Romney’s own failings as a candidate that saw him lose the 2012 presidential election, not a single incident with Christie. Republicans say they hate Washington because of their failure to get anything done, but when politicians manage to cooperate and do something, it seems they don’t like that either.

Cruz, Ted Wiki

Ted Cruz (Source: Wikipedia)

Ted Cruz
My professional opinion? He always looks smug and self-satisfied. Okay, that wasn’t very professional, but I find this man impossible to respect despite his obvious intelligence. More important are his extreme positions: as The Guardian reports, Cruz is clearly in “full out denial” regarding climate change and called the debate about it “a device used by liberals to appease environmentalist billionaires and their campaign donations.” When he announced his bid in March, Think Progress called his agenda “the most anti-women … yet.”

Within the Republican hierarchy, Cruz is possibly as unpopular as Trump, and with good reason. He has damaged the Republican brand in order to increase his own popularity with the electorate, and he’s not a team player. One of the valid criticisms of Obama is that he’s failed to develop good relationships with the political class (which was not entirely his own fault). Cruz would be far worse at this. At least when Obama made the effort, he was actually quite good at it – many Republicans confess to liking him personally. Cruz is very unpopular even within his own party. His tactics appeal to the Tea Party faction, but, thankfully, his appeal is limited and it’s unlikely we’ll have to put up with him for more than a few months. I have to admit to rather enjoying this video, though I’m not too sure about the plastic fork, and what’s with all those people watching in the background?:

Huckabee, Mike dotcom

Mike Huckabee (Source:

Mike Huckabee
If you read this site regularly, you already know what I think of Huckabee and it’s not good. I wrote about him at length a few days ago here. He’s an extreme social conservative with strong name recognition due to a previous presidential run and having his own show on Fox News. Many love him, but there’s a ceiling to the amount of support he can muster even within the Republican party. Some of his policies are ridiculous, but will appeal to many anyway, such as his vow to “abolish the IRS” (Internal Revenue Service – the US federal tax collection agency), “repeal Obamacare”, and “rebuild America’s military superiority”. Because the US military being bigger than the next ten countries combined, most of whom are their allies, means they’re weak! But, there are people who believe his rhetoric, and there are enough of them that’s he’s in the top ten and on that stage.

He will be a part of the race for a few months yet, but he won’t last. With a bit of luck though, he’ll suck enough votes from Ted Cruz to see him out early – they mostly appeal to the same constituency. He is extremely unlikely to win the nomination, and couldn’t ever win the presidency if he did.

Kasich, John Wiki

John Kasich (Source: Wikipedia)

John Kasich
Kasich appears to genuinely meet the criteria of a serious candidate, but the Tea Party doesn’t like him because as the current governor of Ohio he has largely embraced the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as being in the best interests of his state. He was interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this week. After spending the first few minutes of the interview mainly talking about Donald Trump and why Kasich hadn’t gone after him, Kasich responded he wanted to talk about his own campaign. That prompted this exchange:

Wallace: I think you’ll agree with me that the main thing that you’re running on is your record of achievement.
Kasich: The main thing? What the heck else would you run on?

Wallace got a bit snippy in his embarrassment, but I enjoyed it.

Official Portrait

Rand Paul (Source:

Rand Paul
Paul’s libertarianism makes him a darling of the Tea Party, and he also inherits some of the maverick label from his father Ron Paul, a previous multiple runner for the presidency. Within the GOP his libertarianism is seen as a positive – my own view of it is almost entirely negative. He was one of the sponsors of Monday’s Bill to de-fund Planned Parenthood, which was thankfully defeated, but he’s vowed to carry on the fight. As Hillary Clinton said, “If this feels like a full-on assault on women’s health, that’s because it is.”

He proposes repealing the entire US tax code and starting again, which is actually a good idea – a more complex and unworkable document is hard to imagine. However, his idea to replace it with a 14.5% tax on everybody – what he calls “The Fair and Flat Tax” is just stupid. Several GOP candidates are proposing flat taxes with the insistence they’re fairer, and it’s getting pretty annoying. Flat taxes are not fair as they put the greatest burden on the poor, the next greatest burden on the middle class, and the least burden on the wealthy. Special interests have too much to lose to vote for the demolition of the current code, so even if he became president, his efforts would be blocked. Rand is also seen as being weak on national defence which limits his appeal with Republicans, although I’m not convinced that’s a fair criticism.

Official Portrait

Marco Rubio (Source: Wikipedia)

Marco Rubio
Rubio is the face of the future of the Republican party. He’s intelligent, knowledgeable, and has a good understanding of both local and international events. Of course, I don’t agree with most of his policies, but I can see his appeal to Republicans. He was riding high in popularity last year until he spoke out in support of the need for immigration reform. Many Republicans have the opinion that it’s fair, reasonable and actually possible to deport eleven million people practically overnight, even those brought here as babies or children who have no knowledge of their country of birth.

Rubio is a Roman Catholic with a Bachelor of Science Degree, but maintains strong connections with the Christ Fellowship Church and attends it frequently. HuffPost Politics blogger Bruce Wilson has looked into that church and as a result has written an article entitled Marco Rubio’s Miami Church: Exorcisms, Creationism, Anti-Gay Policies. Wilson’s article included these quotes from Rubio’s favourite pastor, Rick Blackwood:

Rubio Church

The Christ Fellowship Church also requires prospective employees to sign the following pledge:

Christ Fellowship Church anti-gay pledge

These things could prove as issue in the future – they’re not likely to be a big deal in a Republican Primary – only about 11% of GOP voters even vote in the primaries, and they tend to be be from the more conservative wing of the party. As the presidential Republican nominee, his opposition not only to same-sex marriage, but an anti-LGBT position would be very damaging to his candidacy. He promotes himself as understanding young people, but young people are largely NOT creationists, they recognize that mental illness is not demon possession, and retain no bigotry regarding LGBT people.

He won’t win this time, but he will gain valuable experience for the future – a future in which President Rubio is a strong possibility. Rubio’s biggest advantage is that, as David Graham pointed out in The Atlantic, he’s many people’s second choice. Statistics back that up:

GOP 2015 Could see supporting

Trump, Donald russia-insider

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. You know who it is. (Source:

Donald Trump
I don’t really want to poison my fingers writing about Trump. He’s been trying to dampen expectations of his performance ahead of the debate, but there’s no predicting whether or not that’s just a tactic. I think he’ll try and appear statesmanlike on the debate stage – whether or not he carried that off will be the big story in its aftermath.

At a press conference at the British Women’s Golf Open at the Trump-owned course in Scotland, wearing his red cap bearing the legend “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”, Trump was asked about whether he had the ability to be leader of the free world when he had the reputation of a divider. He has clearly learned some skills on how to handle such comments on the campaign trail. He remained calm, and sounded measured, but his ego remains intact:

Trump: I think that I would be a great uniter. I think that I would have great diplomatic skills. I think that I would be able to get along with people very well. I’ve had a great success in my life. I think the world would unite if I were the leader of the United States.

Interviewer: If elected president what will be the first thing you’ll do?

Trump: Well, tear up that agreement with Iran – that’s the biggest challenge I think we have in this country, and obviously securing our border with Mexico is obviously incredibly important as well, and those two things can happen on the first day.

Trump currently has around a quarter of the Republican vote, but I’d be surprised if he got too much higher – I think he’s already near his ceiling. As other candidates begin to drop out, their supporters will transfer their allegiance, and it will be a case of “Anyone but Trump.” He’s leading the polls now, but he won’t win the nomination. Even if the inconceivable happened and he did, he would lose the general election. He has high negatives within the Republican party and nationally they’re much higher – around double the 33% shown below.

GOP Would Never Vote For 2Aug2015

Walker, Scott

Scott Walker (Source:

Scott Walker
Amongst Republicans, Walker is a strong candidate and so far has regularly retained the number three spot in the polls. He has a strong chance of winning the nomination, especially if Clinton is not the Democratic nominee. (Bush and Clinton against other cancels out the negative they both have with their names, but it Clinton isn’t there, Bush will struggle to overcome the negative of the Bush name.) His best chance, like Marco Rubio, is that he has low negatives – as you can see above only 9% say they would never vote for him.

Walker is governor of Wisconsin. He recently expressed his support for a Bill that would ban all abortions in the state past 20 weeks gestation, including in cases of rape or incest. In commenting on the Bill, he stated that for women who are raped, it’s only “… in the initial months when they’re the most concerned about it.”

Perhaps I just haven’t searched hard enough, but my initial look at Walker’s official campaign website is that I can’t see his policies (if he has any) unless I login, and that requires a ZIP code.

In 2008 I correctly predicted early on that John McCain would be the nominee and lose – there was no way any Republican could win that year. In 2012, like most people, I thought Mitt Romney would be The One but lose the general election. However, I also thought Jon Huntsman would be right up there, and he pulled out very early. That was probably wishful thinking more than anything else on my part though – he was intellectual, reasonable, and even served as ambassador to China for Obama. I suspect what finally sunk his candidacy was that moment on the debate stage when he tentatively put his hand up while all the others kept theirs firmly gripping the podium. The question? Do you believe in evolution? This time, I think Jeb Bush is most likely to be the Republican nominee, but I reserve the right to change my mind. Despite a Democrat being in the White House for eight years, I still think the Democratic party is most likely to win the 2016 presidential election too. That’s a pretty close call though, and there’s still a long way to go.