The first Republican presidential debate is set for Thursday. I will probably not be able to watch or will watch on a delay (my wife is working late that night, so I have the Betas). But the most significant thing is that Fox has narrowed the 17 — I shit you not — 17 candidates down to 10 so that they will all fit on stage. Those 10 are Donald Trump (currently leading the field), Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich.
That means that seven candidates are out. And I have to say that it’s like those seven are finished. Not because they aren’t in the debate but because they are currently polling so low, it’s unlikely they can bring themselves back into the picture barring an amazing debate performance, which they won’t get a chance at. Those seven are Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum.
And that’s a pity. Trump isn’t going away any time soon, but his negatives are sky high (which you would expect, given that his campaign has zero policy proposals. In mock polling, he loses to Bernie Sanders by twenty points. In taking over the stage, he’s bumping Perry — who is likely doomed from his 2012 gaffe but actually strikes me as a reasonable candidate. He’s also bumping Santorum, who is intensely disliked in some quarters but is one of the few candidates to grasp the pinch many middle class people are feeling. The rest are mainly vanity candidates although Fiorina has some charisma.
Looking at the ten remaining, I’m not terribly high on anyone in the current field. I’ve warmed up to Rubio lately but I think this race is going to quickly narrow to Walker vs. Bush. And if Trumpism spooks enough of the GOP establishment, they will go to Bush, barring some catastrophic gaffe.
So, right now, I’m thinking we’re seeing a 2016 showdown of Bush v. Clinton. Didn’t we already do this?