And Then There Were 10: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!

It’s time to “Break It Down!”

There are numerous monikers ascribed to the unwieldy array of candidates currently seeking the Republican nomination for President. In its infinite wisdom Fox News (FN), the entity sponsoring tomorrow night’s debate has, for all practical purposes given the group a new name, “Ten.” To be fair, the Republican National Committee did that when it established the rules that would govern the Party’s debates, during the road to selecting the GOP Nominee for the 2016 Presidential Race. FN, based on calculations using five National Polls, simply identified which candidates made it into the Top 10 by 5:00 p.m. yesterday.

This decision was based on collective Party soul-searching after President Obama handed the GOP its second consecutive Presidential loss in the 2012 Race for the White House, all while handily winning a number of key demographics Republicans vowed to do better with in 2016. The Party Leaders concluded that its debates leading to the 2012 Primary Season had been poorly staged, and as such detracted from the GOP’s ability to come out of the debated fortified, unified, and strategically prepared to take on the Democrats.

There are currently 17 declared GOP Candidates. According to FN, in a release after yesterday’s deadline, the candidates qualifying for Thursday’s Prime Time event are Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich. To the continued surprise of most Americans, at least most Americans without Tea Party, and/or ultra-Conservative leanings, Donald Trump leads, comfortably, the cavalcade of proud, mostly pious patriots seeking the GOP’s Holy Grail.

Mr. Trump, an avowed Birther, who seems to regularly admit that his principal qualification for the job is that he, in his own words, is very rich. He has, however, promised to make America “great again,” and that’s got to count for something. The Donald entered the campaign as someone whom most thoughtful Republicans and Democrats alike, figured would have been an afterthought in the dynamics of serious politics, such as claiming a place on the main Debate Stage. That he is not only among tomorrow night’s 10 Prime Time Players, but will claim Center Stage, as the person with the highest cumulative polling numbers is perplexing and frustrating for Republicans, the other candidates at least, and perplexing and amusing to Democrats; candidates and voters.

Most of the other GOP candidates have observed, suggested, or flat out complained that Mr. Trump has taken virtually all the air out of the room, and left little, if any, space, time, and most importantly, media coverage for them to articulate their “genuine/serious” policy initiatives and proposals. Instead, reporters seem consumed with the latest Trump gaffe, e.g., Mexicans are rapists, and Senator McCain is not a war hero, or favorite refrain, “I’m very rich,” or which staffer he will, or will not fire today, or issuing his favorite assertion…that this person or that person is a loser.

He does have a lot of money, and as a result, campaign finance, a key harbinger for most other candidates’ ability to stay in the race is a non-issue for him. A point he reiterates often, and with relish. He is also an unconventional campaigner. When he went to South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham’s home State, to campaign, he not only launched a frontal assault on the Senator on his home turf, he released the Senator’s personal cell phone number. Senator Graham subsequently destroyed the phone, and played it off by using the occasion to upgrade to a Smart Phone. When the blog site Gawker later released Mr. Trump’s cell phone number, he quickly changed the message on his answering machine to a campaign ad. This is just one example of how Trump adroitly takes the negative energy that others, including candidates, attempt to use against him, and transforms it into his advantage.

Conventional wisdom holds that the Trump phenomenon is a mirage, and will eventually dissipate, just as any number of poll leaders did in 2012. It could still happen, but frankly I sense an increasing level of concern among his GOP colleagues. At least one has to feel that he displaced them as a member of tomorrow’s Top 10.

That same erstwhile wisdom held from the outset that Jeb Bush would likely prevail as the eventual GOP nominee. Mr. Bush doesn’t have Trump’s money, but his PAC’s have raised nearly $100 million. Now all he has to do is improve his poll numbers.

In several polls, Mr. Trump leads him significantly, more than doubling his projected numbers in a couple of them. Behind Mr. Trump, and (former) Governor Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is 3rd, polling at just a shade over 10%. No one else, not even the seven additional candidates appearing at the Prime Time dais tomorrow night, reached double digits. Among the Top 10 finishers, the average poll numbers break out this way, according to REAL CLEAR POLITICS:

  • Donald Trump, 23.2 percent
  • Jeb Bush, 12.8
  • Scott Walker, 10.6
  • Ben Carson, 6.6
  • Mike Huckabee, 6.6
  • Ted Cruz, 6.2
  • Marco Rubio, 5.2
  • Rand Paul, 4.8
  • Chris Christie, 3.4
  • John Kasich, 2.8

That leaves Perry and the six other major declared candidates — Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore — to appear together during a debate earlier tomorrow evening.

As for the jayvee, excuse me, I mean the pre-Prime Time players; these seven luminaries include one candidate who polled 2%. Three of them polled 1%, but less than 1.5%. One polled 0.4%, and two did not register on a numerical scale. They fell this way:

  • Rick Perry, 2.0
  • Rick Santorum, 1.4
  • Bobby Jindal, 1.2
  • Carly Fiorina, 1.0
  • Lindsey Graham, 0.4
  • George Pataki, N/A
  • Jim Gilmore N/A

In the initial plan, there was going to be one debate. Those who did not make the Top 10 were effectively going to be SOL. However, it became clear that the also-rans would literally be a Who’s Who Among Elected and former Elected Officials, and Business Moguls. Included were former Governor Rick Perry, former Senator Rick Santorum, Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Lindsey Graham, former Governor George Pataki, and former Governor Jim Gilmore…as well as the field’s only woman, Carly Fiorina, former Chief Executive Officer at Hewlett-Packard, and the first woman to lead one of the Top 20 U.S. companies. At that point, FN blinked, deciding that it could not totally divest the process of that much potential talent (on paper).

I have heard several people say they normally do not watch Republican debates, but admitted they were looking forward to the “Trump Show.” I haven’t decided yet whether I will tune in. I must confess, at this point, I am not leaning in that direction. While my best guess is Mr. Trump will surprise with the degree to which he adheres to a script, I just do not anticipate anything new emanating aside from the standard anti-Obama rant. I get enough of that daily.

So how did FN work it’s magic formula to produce the results above? According to Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti, they used five polls, including:

  • Bloomberg
  • CBS News
  • Fox News
  • Monmouth University
  • Quinnipiac University

According to Fox, these were the most recent national polls from non-partisan, recognized organizations. As a passing observation, I find it interesting that they included Fox, but not CNN’s poll as a non-partisan tool. IJS!

They used standard methodology, live interviews, random digit-dial sampling techniques, and included both landlines and cellphones. Their GOP primary vote question mirrored the ballot by reading all candidates names in random order and without honorifics, according to FN.

As the debate cut-off period neared, several candidates pursued attention-grabbing strategies with the hope of rising into the Top 10. Almost all the candidates used national media appearances, even though most had criticized national polls as having little to do with how they might perform in New Hampshire and Iowa. Well, so much for initial strategies. As Mike Tyson was fond of saying, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

We now know that Donald Trump packs quite a punch. If you intend to watch tomorrow, the prelims start early. However, if you are interested in the Big Boy’s Match, remember… “And Then There Were 10: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!”

I’m done; holla back!

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