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Previewing the Seventh Republican Debate

FoxNews will be hosting the next Republican debate tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. As everyone knows by now, the debate will be unusual in that the current front-runner won’t participate, and will instead have his own event of some sort scheduled at around the same time. That almost certainly means that the debate audience will shrink by quite a lot, which is why FoxNews has been so desperate to get Trump to reconsider. Trump’s absence won’t just shrink the audience, but it will also make the debate a less consequential event just a few days ahead of the Iowa caucuses. Many people have reasonably speculated that Trump is ducking the debate so that Cruz can’t inflict any damage on him before Monday, and it’s true that Trump has little to gain by attending.

The debate is important for Cruz, since he probably needs an excellent performance to take back the lead in Iowa, and it may be even more so for Rubio. Rubio needs some momentum coming out of Iowa, so a poor or mediocre showing tonight could be a serious problem for his campaign. The non-Rubio “establishment” candidates just need to have an error-free night, since none of them is competitive in Iowa anyway. As in the last debate, Bush, Kasich, and Christie will be hoping to trip up Rubio and weaken him ahead of New Hampshire, and Cruz has every incentive to try to do the same. Even though Cruz is the highest-polling candidate on the main stage tonight, more of the candidates will see an advantage in targeting Rubio than going after Cruz. Carson will also be present. I suspect the debate will be even less focused on policy than the last one, and I assume it will be more acrimonious than ever.

Rand Paul has been brought back into the main debate, which will add to Rubio’s difficulties. I expect Paul will cause some headaches for all of the hawkish candidates, but he’ll likely use Rubio as a foil for his arguments as he has done in the past. Tonight’s event gives him a final opportunity to make a favorable impression on the main stage before the first contest. Paul’s campaign has confidence that they have a solid ground game in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and a good debate performance could help inspire a better-than-expected result for him.

As usual, I will be covering the debate on Twitter (@DanielLarison [1]).

6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "Previewing the Seventh Republican Debate"

#1 Comment By to wit On January 28, 2016 @ 2:01 pm

“As usual, I will be covering the debate on Twitter”

Some of DL’s tweets from earlier debates have been priceless. Readers of this column who haven’t “followed” him (or whatever the godawful term is) have been missing out.

#2 Comment By Chris Chuba On January 28, 2016 @ 2:55 pm

Great, the seventh installment of another seven member debate. I am certain that there will be incredible revelations and things to discover that we didn’t know after the first 3 debates.
1. Carson is a nice guy who is still faking it on foreign policy (and most everything else).
2. Everyone on the stage is an uber neocon hawk except for the Rand Paul and the ever cunning Ted Cruz.

Trump is correct, the debates at this stage are tedious. It might be worth having one more with about three candidates.

I would love it if it ended up being a self-congratulatory fest with the media praising the candidates who did show up for being brave and the ratings were like 0.00001 audience share.

#3 Comment By SteveM On January 28, 2016 @ 5:11 pm

Daniel, a comment about the illusion that Cruz is anything but a rabid hawk. Below is text pasted directly from his Cruz for President web site. The absolute fallacy that the United States military has been “gutted” is predominately displayed.

The only reason that Cruz questions current American intervention is because it’s Obama who is doing the intervening. It’s obvious that if Cruz were allowed to pull the trigger from the Oval Office, he’d be singing a different song.

Cruz’s hyper-belligerent foreign policy is as perversely warped as that of every other Neocon who will share the stage with him.

I hope to emphasize this point in future posts.

P.S. I’ve said it before, Cruz is a weird dude…

Cruz for President:

The United States of America is the exceptional nation, the nation other countries aspire to be like. We should stand as a shining beacon of what free people enjoying a free market and system of government can achieve. But while our intentions towards the rest of the world are peaceful, that does not mean we have no enemies, and the fact of the matter is our enemies are on the march.

Two terms of the disastrous Obama-Clinton foreign policy have had one useful effect: we now know what the world starts to look like without America. The next president will have to start on day one rebuilding what they have tried to tear down. A truly conservative foreign policy would have three simple principles:

To preserve our country we need to exert leadership on the global stage, not withdraw from it. We need to fiercely defend our allies and interests. And we need to judge each challenge through the simple test of what is best for America. Because what is best for America is best for the world.

In order to restore America’s safety and security, we must rebuild our military. If you think defending the country is expensive, try not defending it. We must rebuild our military in a way that will secure our children without bankrupting them.

ISIS seeks to destroy our very way of life. We must defeat them. That starts by calling the enemy by its name – radical Islamic terrorism – and securing the border. Border security is national security.

We cannot recede from our leadership in the world. If we withdraw from the Middle East, the radical jihadists will not be content to stay there—they are going to attack our allies in the region and beyond. And they are on the lookout for every opportunity to attack us here at home.

On day one, a President Cruz will immediately repeal every word of President Obama’s dangerous Iran deal and will prioritize American national security interests in every instance.

#4 Comment By SF Bay On January 28, 2016 @ 7:05 pm

This debate is basically the 7 Dwarfs on display. That’s how it’s going to play out.

#5 Comment By William Dalton On January 28, 2016 @ 11:12 pm

Not a single one of the “mainstream” Republicans have retreated from the belligerence they have shown in the area of foreign affairs throughout this campaign. They have learned nothing from the elections of 2008 and 2012. They have learned nothing from the high poll numbers of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who, as extreme as they may appear in other ways, have departed from “mainstream” Republican orthodoxy’s eagerness to go to war to slay dragons abroad. I wish that Rand Paul had done enough in this debate to distinguish himself in this regard, but I fear that he hasn’t done enough. His attacks on the other candidates concentrated on tangential issues – missed votes in the Senate, or waffling in their positions. He did not hammer them, as he has before, as being a positive danger to the nation if they were allowed to be our Armed Forces’ Commander-in-Chief.

#6 Comment By Plantar On January 28, 2016 @ 11:39 pm

The “Frank Luntz focus group” seemed to think Rubio had the best of the debate, whereas he struck me as gibbering more agitatedly than usual. To each his own, I suppose … come to that, the look of that Luntz focus group made me think “Stockholm Syndrome” for some reason.