GOP Could be Headed for a Very Nasty Debate Scene
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Reuters-Ipsos released a poll this weekend of Republican presidential contenders. It showed Donald Trump trailed front leader Jeb Bush by only .3%; a virtual dead heat. In the poll Bush received 16.1% versus 15.8% for Trump among the 404 identified Republicans 18 or older who were polled. The respondents were interviewed between July 6-10 and it also had Governor Chris Christie at 9.5% and Senator Rand at 8.1%.
There were some specific observations worth noting concerning the polls itself. First, the poll had a somewhat high credibility factor of approximately 5.7%. Given the nature of the field—which is enormous; the time until the first votes will be casted in the Iowa caucus on February 1, 2016; and the differences in the candidates perhaps the error factor is acceptable. Second, for the presumed frontrunner, the poll showed a drop in support for Jeb Bush since the past poll was published on June 30, in which Bush held a 4.1 % lead over Trump.
The first actual Republican debate is already scheduled for August 6 to be aired on Fox News featuring the top 10 candidates–of what are now 15 or 16 announced– seeking the Republican presidential nomination. The candidates who do not the make cut based on an average of the five latest polls taken prior to the debate will appear on a general candidates forum to be held by Fox earlier in the day.
That scene already presents some matters of concern to the GOP and to their possibility to regain the White House in 2016. The unwieldy number of participants currently seeking the Republican nomination may well render the effectiveness of the debate process itself useless. Few candidates will have very much time to make much of an argument even to its own very excited supporters. The presence– regardless of the forum—of this large a table of aspirants insures that no aspirant even will have time to make concrete arguments; only to create a scene.
The style and personality of both Trump and Christie already present a genuine matter of concern to many Republican supporters because their individual styles and bombastic behavior could create problems for any more mainstream candidate in the general election. If these two candidates become engaged with one another or the other more moderate candidates bait them with visceral attacks in the debate, the level of national alienation to the Republican cause could be unfixable for the Party. It undoubtedly will produce some laughs and fodder for the Democrats, but it will be extremely unlikely to produce a positive effect on Democratic or undecided voters.