Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Republican Debates: Game On

We're not so sure that the usual metaphor for political gamesmanship, namely 3-D chess, applies to the Republican presidential candidates' debates. Not too many of them seem to have, well, any real strategy at all. So how about another board game, namely Clue? Six people, all of them paranoid, all of them plotting to betray the others. Sounds about right.

That's correct, it's looking like half a dozen candidates are going to make the cut for the August 23 debate. Those six are Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). Note that none of them, not even the former president, have qualified as yet. The RNC wrote its qualifying rules in a confusing way, and had to clarify yesterday that a candidate needs to hit 1% in two national polls and also in two early-state polls, with the latter two coming from different states. Because there has only been one qualifying early-state poll so far, none of the six candidates has two, though all six are expected to clear the bar once it's possible to do so.

The candidate who might be lucky number seven, but is currently borderline, is Mike Pence, who's likely to get the necessary qualifying polls, but is having trouble rounding up the correct number of donors. He can't exactly afford to trade $20 gift cards for $1 donations, but maybe he can hold a raffle for a one-on-one dinner with a supporter. Of course, that prize would only be available to male supporters, but our guess is that male supporters are the only kind Pence has.

Asa Hutchinson and Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) are nominally next in line after Pence, but are having big trouble with the polls, while Hutchinson is also struggling to get close to the donor cutoff. Mayor Francis Suarez (R-Miami) and Will Hurd are so far away that their best chance of being at the debate is to buy a ticket.

It remains the case, of course, that Trump may or may not show up. Even Trump himself probably does not know what he'll do, as yet. If he doesn't show, it will be very interesting to watch Christie rip The Donald several new a**holes without any pushback, while everyone else on stage falls all over themselves trying not to say anything that will anger The Donald or the base. If the moderator asks a question like, "Do you think that a criminal conviction for unlawful retention of classified information, etc., should be disqualifying?" the heads of the non-Christie candidates might literally explode. It's just over a month until showtime; make sure you have your popcorn ready. (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates