Five non-Trump Republicans – the only ones besides the former president with any kind of chance, however slim, to win their party’s presidential nomination – squared off in their third primary debate on November 8, following two previous ones in which the real winner was Donald Trump himself, who skipped both. As the saying goes, the third time’s the charm: the five – Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie, and Tim Scott – finally rose to the occasion.
The debate underscored why any of the five, as well as Trump, would make an infinitely better president than would Joe Biden or any other Democrat. To varying degrees, they hit on all the right issues: stopping China’s multifaceted aggression; securing the border from PHIs (Persons Here Illegally) and deadly drugs; supporting Israel, and making America energy independent again, which they prudently tied to lowering food prices.
In stark contrast, Democrats keep trotting out the same story about the single mom holding down three jobs who can’t afford health insurance, and oil companies’ toxic footprint on the environment. Sure, those are important issues too, but we all know that looking at America as a whole, they’re not at the top of the list. Political parties tend to become tied to certain issues and can’t seem to let go of losing ones, until they finally cut the umbilical cord. Take Republicans, for instance, who vowed for years to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” They failed. Obamacare won. Republicans finally got the message, and now we don’t hear a peep about Obamacare any longer.
Republicans are starting to turn the corner on abortion too. Staunch pro-lifers are the party’s squeaky wheel, and some of the presidential hopefuls – Trump and Haley in particular – have caught on: most of Americans, Republicans included, oppose late term abortions and are morally opposed to abortions in most cases. But they also find the concept of government-coerced births to be draconian.
All five contenders, who sit in second to sixth place in the GOP primary behind Trump’s gargantuan lead, had their best debate yet. Some quip that it doesn’t matter, because Trump already has the nomination in the bag. But that’s not necessarily true.
Trump will turn 78 in a few months. I wish him a long, happy, and healthy life, as I do everyone – even politicians with whom I disagree, like that dingbat Nancy Pelosi. But anything can happen. Trump looks and talks as if he’s got decades ahead of him, but at that age, cognitive skills can take a freefall overnight. Just ask Joe Biden’s doctor. Therefore, it’s important for the party to have a deep bench. The Democrats sure wish they did.
Moreover, three candidates – Haley, Ramaswamy, and Scott – are auditioning to be Trump’s running mate. Ramaswamy, whom at times I’ve called ‘Vifake Ramasmarmy’, has shown improvement and is a rising star who can impact the party for decades; he can run in the next ten presidential elections – that’s another 40 years – and still be younger in his last campaign than Biden is now. But this is not his time. And pairing him with Trump is doubling down on unconventional candidates; it’s a dangerous roll of the dice.
Haley, on the other hand, is a much more appealing pick: she’s a woman, and Trump desperately needs a feminine presence by his side to attract white suburban Republican women who find Trump so odious that they sat home in 2020 and cost him the election. Women in politics have it tough: if they’re too gentle, they come across as weak, but if they’re too strong, they’re perceived as ‘bitchy’ (see Hillary Clinton). Haley hits that sweet spot of having plenty of gravitas but just enough softness to be likable. Next, she has strong foreign policy credentials and of all the candidates – Trump included – has the most intense laser beam focus on putting China and Russia where they belong: on a leash.
With Mike Pence out of the race, Tim Scott is now is now the main advocate of God. He’d make a fantastic running mate for any ticket headliner, but he just doesn’t have the firepower to be number one.
DeSantis turned in a solid performance, but still doesn’t resonate with national audiences. Floridians adore him for governing the state so magnificently that it’s going to have to start turning people away soon. But in the other 49 states Americans haven’t experienced life under DeSantis – they’ve only heard about it – and so it doesn’t have quite the same effect to overcome his rather dour personality.
Christie is a sad story. Once a GOP superstar who potentially could’ve won the White House, he was felled by Bridgegate and a generally unremarkable end to his meteoric reign as governor of New Jersey – be he came within a hair of being Trump’s running mate in 2016. After being loyal to Trump throughout the latter’s presidency, Christie peculiarly did a 180 and not only became critical of the former president – as did some other Trump loyalists – but made lambasting Trump the centerpiece of his campaign. Not at the third debate, though: Christie finally caught on that his Trump-bashing only served to land him a chorus of boos, and so, presto – script change!
Meanwhile, back on the Democrat side, there’s a congressman named Dean Phillips who’s challenged Biden for the nomination. He’s young, he’s likable, and he’s funny. I’d vote for him, were it not for his policies: they’re not disturbingly woke, but they’re still … well … Democratic.
Finally, the feckless mainstream media continues its shameless obfuscation of the candidate who’s the biggest threat of all to the major party establishment duopoly: Robert Kennedy, Jr., who’s now running as an independent.