The 10 Republicans (Probably) Starring In The Televised Debates & The Talking Points You Can Expect From Each Candidate
It feels like a new Republican announces their bid to run for president every day. But as it turns out, crowding all zillion of them on a stage for debates come primary season could be a bit of a logistics problem, even though it would no doubt be hilarious (I'm imagining a scenario where Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina get bored waiting for their turn to speak and start to thumb wrestle, at which point someone steps on Mike Huckabee's foot by accident). Which is why Fox News announced last month that only the top 10 Republican candidates will be allowed to participate in its televised debate. So, in all likelihood, which 10 Republicans will be on the televised debates on August 6?
If more than a couple of of the expected candidates announce in the coming months, networks will have to calculate who makes the cut. According to Fox News, it will narrow down the field by taking an average of five national polls in the run-up to the August 6 event. The Washington Post reported that CNN will take a less populist approach in its September 6 debate, which will be a two-parter, featuring the top 10 candidates in the first segment followed by a second segment with candidates that garner at least one percent in the polls.
Even though it might be too soon to call, polls are already asking which Republicans Americans want to see deck it out (rhetorically) on national television the most. A Quinnipiac University poll released on May 28 revealed the top 10 Republicans that Americans wanted for televised debates. Turns out there's a tie for last place, with Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina bottoming out the list at 2 percent each.
I looked at Quinnipiac's roundup, and if public opinion doesn't do a radical shift by August, it should be an entertaining set of debates this Republican primary season, given that the GOP primary debates are known for generating hilarious sound bytes. Who could forget Mitt Romney calling out Newt Gingrich on his "bridge to nowhere"? Or Ron Paul's deadpan response to a moderator's question about why his ad campaign called Newt Gingrich a fake: "Because he's a fake." I took a guess at what each candidate's potential gaffe or quotable could be.
Jeb Bush, 10 percent
Even though former Florida governor Jeb Bush hasn't announced his candidacy, as far as 2016 buzz goes, Bush is by far the most talked about Republican who isn't a candidate yet. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week revealed that Bush gained a few points in a head-to-head matchup with Clinton, with 44 percent of voters choosing Bush over Clinton, versus 41 percent picking Bush over Clinton two months ago.
Potential Quotable: Any question involving his father, former president George H.W. Bush, or his brother, former president George W. Bush. In reference to George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush once said, "My dad is the greatest man alive. If anyone disagrees, we'll go outside." As far as presidential hopefuls go, no one has been related to as many Commander in Chiefs as Jeb Bush. And you guys, it's awwkward. His familial ties has put him in the unenviable position of making his position on Iraq clear while not appearing to criticize his brother, and of distinguishing himself as a candidate separate from his brother while not appearing to outright disown his brother. How does he accomplish this? Well, it's a work in progress. Jeb Bush told CBS's Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that running for president would mean he would have to criticize George W. Bush, which is hard for him to do because, well, the man is his brother.
"I have to do the Heisman on my brother, that I love. This is not something that I’m comfortable doing," Bush said on Face the Nation.
Which all but guarantees that moderators will ask Jeb Bush a lot of uncomfortable questions about his brother. So be prepared for a potential quotable that arises from Jeb Bush trying to thoughtfully respond to a question about Iraq without acknowledging the big white elephant in the room.
Ben Carson, 10 percent
Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson is also on the list of Republicans that Americans most want to hear from. While a Real Clear Politics average shows Carson leading prominent Republican challengers such as Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, the consensus is that Carson is a long-shot for the Republican nomination. A frequent Fox News commentator and surgeon at Johns Hopkins, Ben Carson rose to prominence in 2013 when he criticized President Obama's healthcare policy in front of President Obama during a speech he gave at the National Prayer Breakfast. Every card-carrying Republican has a handful of Obamacare criticisms under his belt, but very few actually have the gall to say them to President Obama's face.
Potential Quotable: Given that Ben Carson is probably physically incapable of feeling fear, it's likely no holds barred. The hardline conservative is a fan of bombastic quotes. Whether it's comparing the IRS to the Gestapo, the Affordable Care Act to slavery, or saying the average Advanced Placement history class would cause kids to join ISIS, when it comes to controversial sound bytes, Ben Carson has got you covered!
Mike Huckabee, 10 percent
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is pretty successful with the religious right, but his popularity ends there. Huckabee's appeal at the national level is more limited, particularly when it comes to appealing to broader bases of Republicans, such as economic conservatives and military hawks. MSNBC reported that the fiscal conservative Club for Growth is launching attack ads against Huckabee. A joke about being transgender that Huckabee made earlier this year at a religious broadcaster's convention in Nashville, Tennessee made the waves last week in light of Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover. When asked about his reaction to Jenner's transgender status, Huckabee made a pass: "Not going there," he said.
Potential Quotable: Huckabee's true passion comes out when debating questions important to the religious right, whether it's making a impassioned case against Obamacare's contraception mandate or the issue of same sex marriage. So when it's time for Huckabee to speak on religion, keep on the look out for a potentially controversial quotable.
Senator Marco Rubio, 10 percent
Senator Marco Rubio is well-liked, a Washington Post/ABC News poll released last week indicated that 31 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Florida senator, putting him below only Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. The young, articulate Rubio has always been remarkably on message, and is a fan of "keeping it real," meaning he's less likely to fall victim to a "gotcha!" journalism moment than his colleagues.
Potential Quotable: Anything criticizing the old guard of Republicans, border security, or foreign policy. Rubio has come out against the longstanding wing of the Republican party on many an occasion, which falls in line with the Florida senator's brand as the fresh new face of the Republican party. Border security, one of Rubio's pet issues in 2014, got abandoned after a fallout with fellow conservatives. Questions on how Rubio would address issues at the border and President Obama's executive orders granting amnesty to undocumented aliens is sure to come up.
Governor Scott Walker, 10 percent
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is another Republican candidate attracting a lot of 2016 buzz. One of Walker's strengths as a Republican candidate was his mainstream appeal, a trait that helped secure his victory in a state that hasn't gone Republican for president since 1984. Walker was campaigning in Florida last week, where he reminded Floridians at the Economic Growth Summit that he often visited his grandparents in Fort Myers as a kid and that his wife has an aunt that lives in Bonita Springs. But a recent string of quips and policy decisions reveal the Wisconsin governor is sticking to his conservative roots. A Washington Post op-ed referred to Walker's "spineless silence" after former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused President Barack Obama of not loving America at a fundraising dinner held for Walker. Walker announced on Thursday that he would sign Wisconsin's proposed bill that would impose a ban on late-term abortions, including in cases of rape and incest. According to CBS News, Walker justified the non-exemption for rape and incest by saying that women are "most concerned" about such cases in the "initial months."
"I mean, I think for most people concerned about that, it's in the initial months when they're the most concerned about it," Walker told reporters.
Potential Quotable: Whether it's a question about the 20-week abortion ban, evolution, or whether Obama is a Christian, any topic that would force Walker to choose between appealing to his suburban Milwaukee conservative base or a more mainstream national audience might potentially fluster this candidate.
Senator Rand Paul, 7 percent
Senator Rand Paul's filibuster of the Patriot Act last month may have won him more enemies than friends. The Daily Beast reported that Paul's delaying tactics on the Senate floor and accompanying Twitter ad campaign, in which he asked supporters to take a selfie of themselves while watching Paul filibuster the Patriot Act on the floor, earned him some serious side-eye from his Republican compatriots, who dismissed it as political grandstanding. As for whether Paul's anti-surveillance stance will up the libertarian's appeal among the broader GOP electorate or lose him points among military hawks, that remains to be seen.
Potential Quotable: Rand Paul is known to speak off the cuff, much like his father. Who can forget when Paul asked whether the United States was going to drop a hellfire missile on Jane Fonda during his filibuster on drone strikes in 2013? Or when Paul told a reporter in April he was glad his train didn't stop in Baltimore the week of the riots? Paul also said on MSNBC's Morning Joe last week that Republican war hawks created ISIS. The junior senator from Kentucky's inability to censor himself is one of his charms, or one of his weaknesses, depending on who you talk to. Either way, Paul's unguarded nature guarantees plenty of memorable quotes come debate time.
Senator Ted Cruz, 6 percent
Ted Cruz made headlines last week for making an ill-timed joke about Joe Biden, a mere few days after the death of the vice-president's son, Beau Biden. While the junior senator from Texas apologized afterward, the gaffe is a memorable one. Cruz is also known for his hatred of avocados, his half-way decent impression of JFK, and his ability to alarm 3-year old girls by telling them the world is on fire.
Potential Quotable: As Politico noted earlier this year, Cruz is known for making "incendiary statements." The Tea Party Conservative wants to abolish the IRS as badly as his fellow senator Rand Paul wants to do away with the NSA. Speaking of NSA spying, don't even get Cruz started. Cruz and Paul have sparred on the issue of mass surveillance, with Cruz being a fan of a moderate approach to NSA reform. Cruz was called out earlier this year for having the worst attendance record of any member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which may get bought up if the discussion turns to his foreign policy background.
Donald Trump, 5 percent
While his viability as a political candidate is questionable, it's no question that having Donald Trump take part in the GOP primary debates will make for some seriously entertaining television. Jimmy Fallon listed several pros and cons of a Trump presidential run, including the fact that his hair will make him a shoo-in in the "comb-over" states. Ouch. Donald Trump is expected to make an announcement of whether or not he will pursue the Republican nomination for president on June 16, according to USA Today.
Potential Quotable: When Trump decides to "fire" debate moderators Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace. Or makes some sort of reference to The Apprentice. In any case, it's fair to say most people won't be paying attention to the points he makes about policy.
Governor Chris Christie, 4 percent
The bombastic governor of New Jersey rounds off the top 10 list, garnering 4 percent of the votes. Christie made a stop in Iowa last week to talk about a potential presidential run. Though he insisted he had a job in New Jersey and the state's budget to attend to, some aren't ruling out a potential 2016 run. According to the AP, Christie is scheduled to speak in Ames, Iowa on June 11 about education, which is a very presidential candidate-y kind of thing to do.
Potential Quotable: Chris Christie is blunt in a way that makes you forget that he's the governor of New Jersey and not your foul-mouthed beer buddy. Christie told a heckler to "shut up and sit down" during a Hurricane Sandy event, according to The Globe and Mail. And the New Jersey governor's public announcement to convince people to leave the beach before Hurricane Irene hit?
“Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out. You’re done. It’s 4:30, you’ve maximized your tan. Get off the beach," said Christie. There will surely be a myriad of opportunities for Christie to remind America of his frank, hard-scrabble New Jersey roots, whether it's by referencing Snooki or tossing out one of his famous insults.
Carly Fiorina, 2 percent (tie)
Carly Fiorina, the sole woman to be seeking the Republican nomination for president, is ranking at an unenviable last place in the polls. The former head of HP and California Senate candidate is making a mad dash to improve her numbers. Steve DeMaura, the executive director for Fiorina's SuperPAC, Carly for America, told The New York Times that making the cut for the first debate is on everybody's mind, which is why ranking last on the list is such a precarious place to be. "If you’re currently at 5 percent or below, you have to know that everybody is trying to get in," DeMaura told the Times.
Fiorina was in New Hampshire on Monday, meeting with local Republicans. According to WMUR, Florina had harsh words for Hillary Clinton. "It's not about gender. Although Hillary Clinton would like it to be. It’s about leadership and the kind of country we want to be in the 21st century," said Florina, according to WMUR 9.
Potential Quotable: Given that Florina is the only other female candidate in the running for 2016, expect plenty of questions that will reference Hilary, unfair or not. Being that Florina is not exactly shy about criticizing Clinton on the campaign trail, that attitude could warrant plenty of awkward moments on the national stage.
John Kasich, 2 percent (tie)
Ohio Governor John Kasich joins Walker of Wisconsin and Christie of New Jersey as another young Republican governor whose name is gaining national attention. As far as Kasich's drawbacks, the Wall Street street cred the Governor of Ohio gained during his days as a senior executive at Lehman Brothers has not made him popular among some circles. It's worth nothing that Kasich has not announced his bid for 2016, and the fact that his name is barely registering in the polls may result in him being a distant memory come debate time. Regardless, Kasich's likable persona, (relatively) clean slate and position as the governor of a critical swing state might give him a leg up over the other lower ranking Republicans on this list in the final stretch. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Kasich over the past week has been in a campaigning frenzy. The former congressman booked an event in early voting state Nevada, appeared at a summit hosted by Mitt Romney in Utah, went on a two-day jaunt to New Hampshire, and is scheduled to appear among several Republican presidential hopefuls at a Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority conference in Washington, D.C.
Potential Quotable: The fact that Kasich has put together the first all-white Cabinet in Ohio since 1962 has raised several eyebrows. According to Think Progress, Kasich refused help from Ohio's Legislative Black Caucus with finding candidates of color. Kasich also eliminated "gender identity" from a state employment non-discrimination executive order, which drew the ire of plenty of civil rights groups. If asked to give an explanation, both actions will no doubt require Kasich to tiptoe around offending a national audience.
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