Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Eight Is Enough?

The first formal event of the 2024 presidential campaign cycle (not counting arraignments) will take place this evening in Milwaukee. Eight people who have roughly as much chance of being president as we do will take the stage and beat the tar out of each other, while largely ignoring the expected-to-be-absent frontrunner, Donald Trump.

The eight folks who will be in attendance, in order of polling results (which will dictate placement on stage) are: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Chris Christie, Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) and Asa Hutchinson. There are four additional folks who claim to be presidential candidates, but who failed to achieve one or both of the necessary hallmarks for qualifying. They are Will Hurd, Mayor Francis Suarez (R-Miami), Larry Elder and Perry Johnson. If they wish to attend the debate, they will have to buy a ticket.

The moderators will be Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier. Apparently, to be suited for this job, you had to be a Fox host with an alliterative name (though one is left to wonder why Greg Gutfeld did not make the cut). Even with only eight people on stage, MacCallum and Baier will have their work cut out for them. If we assume that the moderators spend, say, 20 minutes on niceties and on question-asking, that leaves roughly 12 minutes per candidate. Many of these candidates are pushy and/or loudmouthed, and they're all desperately trying to make their marks. Calming down a feces-throwing battle at the Milwaukee County Zoo's gorilla enclosure would be an easier task than reining in these eight. Not that the two events wouldn't have significant similarities, mind you.

Speaking of Fox (and of the RNC, for that matter), they are not making it all that easy to watch the debate. It will be on Fox's cable channel, of course, as well as on Fox Business. You can also stream it at this link on If you don't like those options, your only alternative is... Rumble, which will be streaming it on their app, and on their website at this link. Rumble is basically the right-wing version of YouTube. It would seem that the latter is too woke for the tastes of RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel (really).

Not to be too cliché, but here are half a dozen storylines worth watching for:

  1. The 800-pound [MAMMAL OF YOUR CHOICE]: Trump is counterprogramming the debate with a pre-recorded interview he did with former Fox entertainer Tucker Carlson. Since the former president has sat for a thousand softball interviews, we doubt it will attract many viewers, especially since it's going to be on the platform formerly known as Twitter. The main effect of Trump's non-attendance is that some millions of people who would have watched the debate will find something else to do with their time.

    While doing an interview with Carlson is hardly the height of creativity, someone on Team Trump did come up with a little clever trolling, however. Yesterday, Trump's PAC launched, where you can vote for your favorite VP candidate, read a positive quote about Trump uttered by that person, and then see a list of reasons the person is a big loser.

  2. Ron DeScriptus?: As we, and everyone else, wrote last week, DeSantis' script and battle plan for the debate leaked due to foolish behavior by the super PAC that supports him (but that he is definitely not coordinating with). If he follows the script, nonetheless, it will be obvious, and will look phony. If he changes the script, it will be obvious, and will presumably be sub-optimal, strategically. What will he do?

  3. Viveksection: Assuming the Florida governor sticks with his battle plan, his primary on-stage target will be Vivek Ramaswamy, who is currently nipping at DeSantis' heels in the polls. It would seem that the same plan is in effect in the opposite direction; yesterday, Ramaswamy said the whole purpose of his campaign is to sabotage DeSantis (which, in politician-speak, translates as "Pleeeeeeeaaaaase pick me for VP, Dear Leader Trump"). Will Ramaswamy and DeSantis succeed in taking each other apart?

  4. Testosteronium: There will be one woman candidate up on stage. Haley didn't get to where she is without being able to handle a little male aggression, but there's a difference between that and dealing with somewhere between two and seven shouting politicians, several who are just real, alpha-male jerks. If she's treated shabbily tonight, she could get a boost, while an opponent who is overly aggressive could take a hit.

  5. Fox's Thumbs: Will Fox pull some strings to advance its own objectives, candidate-wise? Rupert Murdoch & Co. don't seem to have a preferred non-Trump alternative anymore, but you never know for sure. Alternatively, the Fox leadership might prefer to give very little oxygen to the Hutchinsons and Burgums, in hopes of narrowing down the field as quickly as is possible.

  6. The Kiddies' Table: In 2016, the candidates who didn't make the main stage at least got to participate in the kiddies' debate earlier in the day. This time, they don't even get that. We probably won't know by the end of the night tonight, but surely some of the folks left on the outside will soon throw in the towel. Suarez, in fact, specifically promised that if he did not make the cut, that would be it for him. We'll see if he follows through with that. By contrast, whatever Elder is trying to do, he's not going to give up without plenty of kicking and screaming. He claims that if the RNC accepted polls from Rasmussen, he would have made the stage, and so he's going to file a lawsuit. Good luck with that, Larry.

We are doing our best to treat the debate seriously, but let's be frank, the whole thing is absurd. It's odd that the frontrunner isn't bothering to show up. It's positively nutty that, barring the unexpected, his opponents aren't going to seize the opportunity to take him down a few pegs. On top of this, with everyone sticking to pre-scripted talking points, it's also likely going to be a little boring. In recognition of both of these things, we now present to you "What Would Donald Do?" bingo. All you have to do is watch for the obvious GOP talking points:


25 squares, each with a GOP cliche


25 squares, each with a GOP cliche


25 squares, each with a GOP cliche


25 squares, each with a GOP cliche

If you want to play against friends and family at home, here is a PDF where you can print all 4 cards. Alternatively, you can vote here on which of the four cards you think will bingo first, along with how long you think the debate will be in minutes. We'll run down the results tomorrow; note that we're going to count reasonably equivalent terms as being the same (so, for example, "Sleepy Joe" counts for "Joe Biden.")

In any event, the fun, such as it is, starts at 9:00 p.m. ET. (Z)

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