Mixed Martial Arts: The Republican Debates Begin the Race to the Top – Will the Republicans Self-Destruct and Can the Democrats Coalesce Around a Candidate?

On Thursday all of America can watch the Fox Mixed Martial Arts presentation – the Republican debates – the preliminary, the also-rans, followed by the ten contenders. Fifteen months before the election Donald Trump is leading the Republican polling.

Trump tops the field at 20% in the poll, Quinnipiac’s first since the businessman announced his run for the presidency in June. He is followed … by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 13%. Bush follows … at 10%. This trio comprises the only Republican candidates in double-digits in each of the last four publicly released national polls.

Behind them, Quinnipiac finds a group of four tied at 6%: retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are just a shade behind at 5%.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Republican brain trust have to be increasingly nervous. The press covers Trump as he rails against the other candidates, threatens to run as a third party candidate, and, in match-ups with the Democrats does poorly.

And in general election match-ups, Trump lags far behind three potential Democratic opponents: He trails both Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden in head-to-head matchups by 12 points, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders holds an 8-point lead over Trump.

Bush and Walker each run about even with Clinton and Biden in their head-to-heads, while Sanders narrowly trails the two Republicans.

On the Democratic side Clinton far outpolls her rivals,

… Quinnipiac’s poll finds Clinton solidly ahead, with support from 55% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters. That puts her nearly 40 points ahead of her closest competitor, Sanders at 17%.

(See the results from a range of polls here)

While Clinton may be polling well her “likability” numbers are weak; as the campaign escalates and the attacks increase in intensity and virulence will her numbers erode?

Multiple media outlets and pundits have suggested that her personal unpopularity well over a year before the presidential election is a major problem for her. A Washington Post article described the poll numbers as “decidedly sobering for Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects in 2016.”

The Republican contenders have been pushed aside by the media attention on Trump, at this stage the election is still entertainment and Trump is a better entertainer than any of his rivals. Instead of a debate among the candidates the campaign has become outrageous comments by Trump with the rivals avoiding getting pulled into the mud pit. The contenders have been waiting for Trump to self-destruct; however, each seemingly destructive comment adds to the entertainment factor. On Thursday Trump will be center stage, do you attack Trump? Engage in a tit-for-tat? Attack the other wannabees and ignore Trump? Each camp is carefully creating a strategy, trying to distinguish themselves from the crowd.

“Fox told campaigns this week that the candidates will be lined up onstage according to their poll numbers, with the leader in the center and the others to his left and right. That means if current numbers hold, [Donald] Trump will be in the center flanked by Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.”

“… there won’t be opening statements. In addition, there will be a minute to respond to a moderator’s question and an extra 30 seconds to respond if you call out a rival by name.”

To raise money candidates must be relevant, if you linger in the single digits in the polls the dollars will no longer flow, the tens and tens of millions necessary to run a campaign. Federal law caps contributions to candidates at $2700 per contributor; there are no caps on Super-PACs, independent committees with no formalized ties to a candidate’s campaign. One contributor gave Ted Cruz’s PAC $10 million, no one can survive as a candidate without a Super-PAC and Jeb Bush has over $100 million in his PAC.

The caucus/primary season begins in February with the Iowa caucus followed by the New Hampshire primary; March 5th is Super Tuesday with a dozen primaries. (See primary calendar here).

Candidates have to run a campaign in all the early primary states, and campaigns cost dollars.

Who are the likely voters? Campaigns buy voter lists and disaggregate the “likely” voters by gender, race, income and social views. How is it possible to collect that data? Facebook and every other social media site. The sites sell data; every time you click on Facebook, click on any site: make comments, read magazine or books online, you’re cyber life is for sale.

You might be outraged, this can’t be legal! Isn’t this is violation of my right to privacy? Did you read Facebook terms of use agreement? Facebook and other social media sites collect and sell data – that’s how they make money. The details of your life are for sale; welcome to the cyberworld.

If you were running a campaign in New York City you’d contact Prime NYC and purchase lists of likely voters (“prime” voters), and create a campaign around the voters who you have identified as most likely to support your candidate. TV, print and electronic media buys, foot soldiers to knock on doors; multiply by each and every primary state, a massive organization with tens of thousands of volunteers and paid workers, an army.

I read blog after blog bemoaning the power of money in elections, I agree; however Citizen United changed the rules of the game. There are no longer any limits on Super-PAC donations; if you want to play you need the dollars.

In a prior post I agreed with the AFT endorsement of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders and many readers were angry. I wish we lived in a nation in which a Socialist could be elected president; I wish our health care system was a single-payer system, basically Medicare for all. I wish we lived in a nation without the incredible income disparities. Unfortunately we have never resolved our racial issues. The Sunday New York Times magazine A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act is a must read; a depressing recounting of the dismantling of the Fifteenth Amendment and the current dismantling of the Voting Rights Act.

I support the election of Democrat in the November, 2016. any Democrat; it is vital for the nation as we know it. My anti-Hillary friends tell me that Jeb Bush is not an ultra-conservative, that he’s a moderate Republican. Moderate Republican is an oxymoron. The next president will in all likelihood appoint Supreme Court justices, will face Republican legislation to turn Medicare into a voucher program, privatize Social Security, sharply reduce federal dollars for education and move public education to a voucher-based choice program, and, of course, do everything possible to weaken or eliminate labor unions. A Republican president and a Republican Congress will make the nightmare reality.

Fighting it out in the primaries strengthens candidates, forces them to respond to challenges. The negative side is supporters of the loser staying on the sidelines. While McGovern won the nomination in 1972 in a bruising primary campaign he was trashed in the general election as too many Democrats stayed on the sidelines or voted for Nixon.

The New York Times and columnist Maureen Dowd report that Joe Biden is considering a run; the more the merrier as long as the party coalesces around the eventual winner.

I am asked what is Hillary or Bernie’s position on the Common Core or charter schools or this or that education issue – the answer is that education is far down the list is issues that attract voters. Hopefully teachers will be knocking on doors, for Hillary, or Bernie, or maybe Joe, the crucial question is whether teachers will be knocking on doors for the Democratic nominee. The combination of Democratic supporters will be across the spectrum, you may find hedge funders who fund charter schools supporting Clinton or Biden, you may find the remnants of moderate Republicans supporting the Democrat; you win by coalition-building and the Democratic nominee needs a coalition to reach the threshold of 270 electoral votes.

The future of public education and the achievements from Roosevelt through Johnson to the today are at stake.


One response to “Mixed Martial Arts: The Republican Debates Begin the Race to the Top – Will the Republicans Self-Destruct and Can the Democrats Coalesce Around a Candidate?

  1. If Biden declares, all the Republicans have to do is play it straight up. A ticket of Bush.Cruz or Bush and Carson, or Bush and Walker, would make it very easy for traditional democratic voting blocs to crossover. Any republican ticket with Christy on it however, would have a negative impact and result in an assured Dem win.


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