9/7: GOP Debate or Battle Royal?

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Expect Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment of GOP politics to be broken as the large field of Republican presidential wannabes meet in three debates during the next three weeks.  And, with good reason.

caricature of Lee MiringoffSo far, it’s been a race that has probably attracted at least as much attention for those who have chosen not to run (Huckabee, Daniels, Barbour, Pataki), those who have already ended their candidacy (Pawlenty), and those who have yet not declared their intentions (Palin, Giuliani) as it has for those who are traipsing around Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

The oddity about this GOP contest is how ill-formed it is as we head into heavy campaign season.  (Don’t totally blame the candidates here as the dates for Iowa and New Hampshire haven’t been set, yet).

The so-called top tier consists of  recently anointed front-runner Rick Perry, who is yet to demonstrate anything beyond the ability to get out of the gate fast; Mitt Romney, the early but weak front-runner who now occupies the place position behind Perry; and Michele Bachmann (just barely) who gained an early advantage based upon her debating skills and narrow win in the Iowa straw poll but who now must find a way to re-energize her campaign.

The remaining candidates, perhaps led by Jon Huntsman, are searching for a spark that ignites their 15 news cycles of fame.  Meanwhile “undecided”  continues to be a popular choice among rank and file Republicans.

This all accounts for why the GOP field is sensing the “urgency of now.”  Coupled with the weakening strength of President Obama’s re-election prospects, the debates are likely to  undo the Reagan pledge.  I’m sure the campaign handlers will claim that their candidates are merely providing issue clarification.  But, no one will be fooled when the gloves  come off early and the punches start flying in the upcoming debate slugfests.