GOP Debate: Do Any of These Yahoos Have What it Takes?
For the candidates on stage, tonight's debate is their best — and maybe last — shot
Tonight, the Republican candidates not named Donald Trump will gather in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the first debate of the 2024 Presidential Campaign. Trump’s absence is fitting. To date, the non-Trump candidates were playing for second place — refusing to take on Trump while positioning themselves to be the heir apparent to the MAGA base if Trump were to spontaneously combust. It makes sense to formalize their misguided strategy with a debate taking on each other rather than the candidate currently kicking all of their asses.
All of the polling shows Trump with a historically large lead nationally and smaller, but still substantial, leads in Iowa and New Hampshire. For most of the campaign, the candidates on stage tonight struggled to introduce themselves to the electorate on their terms. Reminiscent of 2016, Trump has sucked up all of the oxygen and dominated the conversation to such an extent that no one other than Ron DeSantis could reach double-digits in the polling. For the folks on stage, tonight’s debate on Fox News will be their best — and maybe last — shot to alter the state of the race.
Here’s what I will be watching for:
1. “Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?”
To borrow the words of Jimmy Breslin describing the 1962 New York Mets team that lost 120 games, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” To date, these candidates have run miserable campaigns. They lack a message, a theory of the case, and the charisma and skill to win. Beating Trump in a Republican Primary is a tremendously difficult task; it will require generational political talent to seize the moment. Tonight’s debate will be a test to see if any of the candidates have the chops to navigate the campaign.
I am quite skeptical, but if any one of these yahoos were going to demonstrate some latent political talent, tonight would be the night to do it.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Message Box to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.