Seven is not only a lucky number but the maximum allowable to do what these debates should do for Republicans. The goal of the debates is not to allow fringe candidates like Herman Cain in 2012 to prattle on in order to increase their stature.
The goal is to identify the best candidate to defeat Hillary Clinton in the general election. As someone who has moderated many debates, I can tell you that even with seven people it’s difficult to have as many moments as possible in which the candidates push each other on their positions and withstand the scrutiny that is part of the vetting process.
I think my job as a moderator is to provoke the moments and positions that identify the candidates. It is not to allow canned answer talking points that allow candidates to skate.
I’ve interviewed almost every one of the Republican candidates multiple times with the exception of Jeb Bush. Let me give you the hurdles that I think each has to overcome to my satisfaction in order to be TPTDH (The Person To Defeat Hillary):
- Rand Paul. I really like Senator Rand Paul and his outreach to many groups. His challenge as ISIS continues to murder and threaten is to prove his national security views will make us safe. People like his protection of privacy views but want a strategy to combat terrorists.
- Marco Rubio. I’ve hosted Senator Rubio at a major event in Trevose and his challenge is to prove that he is solid in combatting illegal immigration. His dabbling with Senator Schumer and others in crafting a bill that would allow amnesty still is in the minds of voters.
- Scott Walker. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has taken the perceived weakness of never finishing college and turned it into a plus. His challenge is to show his ability to deal with issues of a national scope. I think this hurdle is relatively minor for him.
- Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson has an amazing American success story. His challenge is to show that his life story has much to do with being president. He needs to get much more specific in how he would run the country. He needs to show a grasp of the specific issues.
- Jeb Bush. The former Florida Governor has proven that he can raise a lot of money and that he has great name recognition. But that Bush name recognition is part of his problem. The bigger problem is convincing primary voters that he has any conservative positions on the major issues.
- Carly Fiorina. The former executive and California Senate candidate has to answer for her record at Hewlett Packard. She has looked great in firing away at Hillary Clinton and I’m watching her as I watch this push back at Chris Wallace on his Sunday show.
I’ll have more on the other candidates in a future blog. Well, there might be several installments given a potential nineteen Republican candidates.