Weekly Opinion Editorial
ELEPHANT NOT IN THE ROOM!
by Steve Fair
The 2024 Republican presidential primary starts this week. The first Republican primary debate will be aired by Fox News and held on Wednesday August 23rd, at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It will be moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum from Fox.
At least seven GOP candidates are expected to be on stage. As of this writing, the participants will be DeSantis, Ramaswany, Haley, Scott, Burgin, Pence and Christie. Former President Trump has announced he will not be there and will instead hold an exclusive interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. He refused to sign a ‘loyalty’ oath (pledging support for the nominee) the RNC required for participation. Former Vice President Mike Pence says he thinks Trump may show up at the last minute, but that is unlikely. Three observations:
First, Trump is not a good debater. In the 2016 GOP primary debates, he was entertaining, insulting and loud toward his fellow Republicans. He was scarce on substance and long on denigration during each forum. His positioning of himself as an ‘outsider’ was appealing and resonated with voters, who were sick and tired of politics as unusual and that strategy worked.
In 2020, Trump’s ‘debating’ with Biden hurt his campaign and many pundits believe was one of the primary reasons he lost. Instead of letting Biden talk during the ’20 debates, he repeatedly interrupted him. Instead of Americans seeing Biden as a weak communicator, they saw him as a bullied browbeat man who wasn’t given the chance to say much. Trump failed to give Biden enough rope to hang himself- a missed opportunity.
Trump lacks the discipline to seriously debate. In the 2016 GOP primary Houston debate, former Gov. John Kasich was presenting his well thought out and substantive plan to balance the federal budget. The other debate participants responded to the plan-Trump choose to made fun of how Kasich was dressed. While that may have worked in ’16, it probably won’t in ’24.
Second, minds are rarely changed by a debate. That is why Trump’s team isn’t worried about him skipping the debate. They know his supporters will support him regardless of his debate performance. Debates rarely move the needle. Parties conduct them because they raise a lot of money on debates.
Third, the Trump-less debate is an opportunity for the other candidates. They are all dark horses. Trump has a seemingly insurmountable lead, but the first primary is six months away. Some of the candidates are virtually unknown and this is their chance to introduce themselves to America. Each of those on stage want to be the viable alternative should Trump falter.
Thoughtful GOP primary voters should be listening for well-thought solutions for America’s fiscal issues. They should not be as impressed by a well-delivered zinger, one liner or quip as they are with componence in budgeting. America’s monetary house must be put in order or the country will fail. Until voters recognize that, then the debates are little more than a spectacle.
Pundits are predicting Tucker’s interview with the former POTUS will have twice as many viewers as the debate. Even though he isn’t attending, Donald Trump will be mentioned many times during the debate. Some of the candidates will tell the audience how much they are like Trump. Others will tell you how much different they are. The elephant NOT in the room on Wednesday will be addressed.