The top ten Republican candidates will be appearing in front of an audience of 4,500 in Cleveland Ohio 9pm EST Thursday/1pm NZT Friday for the first primary debate, which I wrote about here. There’s a second debate though, which is happening first. (It’s politics – don’t expect it to make sense.) At 5pm EST Thursday/9am NZT Friday the seven candidates who didn’t make the top ten will be competing.
The same average of polls used to choose the top ten candidates was used to define the order the the other seven candidates, and this was the result:
This debate has the potential to be extremely interesting. All these candidates will be wanting to do something to make it into the top ten so they will make it to the main debate stage for future debates. It must be pretty galling for Rick Perry that he came in eleventh in the calculation – the idea that Trump is the reason he won’t be there must be incredibly frustrating. Perry’s campaign hasn’t had the missteps that his 2012 one did, and he’s been the leader in calling out Trump’s ridiculous comments, especially in relation to Mexico and Trump’s abuse of Arizona senator John McCain.
As with the top ten, the line-up is a mixture of reasonably serious candidates and the sort of people who are only there because it’s mostly the far right of the party who votes in the primaries.
Fiorina, best known as former CEO of Hewlett Packard, didn’t make the top ten because she lacks name recognition in my opinion. On the whole, she’s actually a good candidate. Despite not being a politician, she is well prepared, has an excellent knowledge of the topics, and is unfazed by reporters. So far she hasn’t made a single misstep and doesn’t look likely to. If I was a US citizen I might even be tempted to vote for her myself. This debate is a chance for her to become known, and she will be determined to make the most for it. For me her biggest negative is her strong anti-choice stance, but that is, of course, a positive in the Republican Party.
I think Fiorina is the strongest contender for vice-President of all the nominees. Her biggest opposition for that post is governor of South Carolina, Nikki Hayley. Hayley is a darling of the Tea Party, and if the presidential nominee feels the need to appeal to the far-right, Hayley will get the nod ahead of Fiorina.
Gilmore is the most recent entrant into the national race, and so far hasn’t managed to even get one percent in any national poll. He was governor of Virginia from 1997-2001, is an attorney, and also completed a term of military service. He has made ambiguous comments on abortion that have left many Republicans questioning his Republican credentials, but on the whole appears to have embraced the anti-choice position. He came out strongly against President Obama following this year’s Prayer Breakfast. The Catholic website Crux reported:
He blasted the president’s … speech after Obama cited the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, and Jim Crow as “terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” Gilmore told The Washington Post that those words were “the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime. He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.”
On all conservative issues he appears to toe the party line. He’s another who’s quite a reasonable candidate from a Republican point of view, but at this stage I think unlikely his campaign will gain any traction. He has no major point of difference, and hasn’t yet outlined any firm policies.
Senator Graham of South Carolina has a good back story and is very knowledgeable, but has strong negatives within the party. In a Fox News poll released earlier this week (see below), he topped the list of candidates Republicans would never vote for at 40%. Generally, he’s seen as too liberal and many call him a RINO (Republican In Name Only). 2016.republican-candidates.org says this about why he earned that label:
Perhaps his 2010 remark that the Tea Party is “unsustainable” and will “die out” has much to do with it; or, if we look further back in time, there is his condemnation of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, his support of green energy, or even, his criticisms of former president George W. Bush’s Social Security reforms proposal.
Another reason may be that unlike most of the candidates, he accepts the science of man-made climate change. I would also suggest that the conservative base are suspicious of a 60 year old man unmarried and living alone. Graham won’t win the nomination, but he’s actually one of the better candidates.
Jindal became governor of Louisiana in 2008, and has very strong conservative credentials. He is undeniably intelligent and a strong administrator. I can’t find any specific policy positions on his campaign website, so perhaps we’ll find out if he actually stands for anything specific during the debate.
In 2013, Jindal made a speech in which he said the GOP had to stop being the “stupid party”. Since then however, he’s personally added to that perception – he’s was a biology major, but dodged a question about whether he accepted evolutionary theory by saying he “wasn’t an evolutionary biologist.” The Guardian ran a story about him in June entitled Bobby Jindal: Republican who brought creationism into schools to join election. It details how in his first year as governor he signed the Louisiana Science Education Act which allowed the pseudoscience Intelligent Design to be taught in schools as a valid scientific theory. There have been four attempts to repeal it, the last backed by 89 Nobel laureates. All have failed.
Jindal is unlikely to win the nomination, but my impression is that he’s running for vice-president. There his chances are better than average.
Pataki is best known for serving three terms (12 years) as governor of New York. He’s 70 years old and that, along with suspicions about his Republican credentials make it unlikely he’ll have much success as a candidate. Although fiscally conservative enough to keep the GOP base happy, he’s considered too liberal socially. He is pro-choice and while governor got a gay rights bill through the legislature that had previously failed.
His campaign website has little more than three videos, two of which are almost twenty minutes long. I didn’t watch them. There was a thirty second ad too, but I already can’t remember what it said, and it’s only fifteen minutes since I watched it. There are no policies outlined and not even an “About” page. It’s no wonder he’s so far failed to achieve even 1% in any national polls.
Santorum did well in the 2012 primary, finishing second overall. On many topics his policies are reasonable, but his social conservatism is at the extreme end. He’s not just anti-choice like all the other Republican candidates, he even opposes contraception – he’s gone so far as to call it “dangerous”. He says it encourages sex outside marriage, which he considers immoral.
It’s pretty obvious to most of us that a social conservative can’t win the presidential race in today’s America, but one of Santorum’s main arguments is his electability. It goes like this: moderates like McCain and Romney didn’t win, so what the GOP needs is a more conservative candidate. It’s an unconvincing analysis, but there is a segment of the party to whom it makes sense. Someone I know well who’s living back home in New Zealand, but was once a Wall Street trader and still prefers the Republican party said to me during the last primary, “It might be a good thing for the party if someone like Rick Santorum won. He would lose the general election so badly it might cure the Republicans of the idea that a social conservative could ever win.”
Santorum is also a creationist. When a senator in 2001, he successfully added an amendment to the No Child Left Behind Bill that would have seen it legal to teach creationism alongside evolution in science classrooms. The amendment won in the Senate 91-8 and was universally praised by Intelligent Design advocates. Thankfully for a generation of US children, according to Wikipedia “scientific and educational groups successfully urged [the Bill’s] conference committee to strike the Santorum Amendment from the final version.”
Despite all the predictions, Santorum gained quite a following in 2012. This time though there are candidates running for the same constituency as he is that are more appealing, especially Mike Huckabee, who’s currently in fourth position.
This will be a good debate I think, and it will be interesting to see what these candidates do to try to elevate themselves into the top ten. At 5pm EST in the United States, the debate won’t get anywhere near the viewership of the later one in prime time. Therefore the candidates will need to do something that gets them noticed beyond the debate itself. That’s a risky business because for politicians, any publicity is NOT good publicity.