Tonight will be the second to the last debate before the Iowa Caucus for the Republicans. As time grows closer, each candidate needs to make their case to the voters. As previously mentioned in the last blog, every candidate needs a solid performance but now I want to get into more specifics about what I think each candidate needs to do tonight to boost their campaign.
Starting from lowest to highest:
Under Card Debate
Rand Paul- By choosing to sit out the debate, Senator Rand Paul has hurt any momentum he could potentially pick up from a strong debate performance even if it is in the lower card debate. Senator Paul should learn from Mrs. Fiorina and Governor Christie that just because you are put in the lower card debate does not mean you will stay there. Both Mrs. Fiorina and Governor Christie put out strong performances that bumped them into the main stage. The under card debate is also an opportunity to get more speaking time and a strong performance could be just what Senator Paul needed but he has choose to sit it out. It is understood that Senator Paul is not happy with being downgraded to them main debate and his argument has merit to it but his point could have been made even while participating in the debate. Senator Paul is hoping that by sitting out the debate, the next debate will include him on the main stage, but this is a great risk and could harm him more than help him.
Rick Santorum- Senator Santorum has had a rough go this primary season without gaining significant traction in his campaign. If one will recall back in 2012, Senator Santorum won Iowa. Four years later, Mr. Santorum has his work cut out for him if he hopes to do so again. In the under card debate tonight Mr. Santorum needs to continue to rely on his Evangelical and Conservative message that allowed him to win Iowa in 2012. One thing that Mr. Santorum has had difficulty to show this go around, is how he is different from his chief voting bloc rivals, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, which has hurt his campaign. Senator Santorum will have to not only perform well but convince voters as to what makes him different from Governor Huckabee and Senator Cruz to try to boost his campaign.
Mike Huckabee- Governor Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 and had some success in the 2008 campaign. Governor Huckabee, like Senator Santorum, appeals to the Evangelical Conservative voter and should focus on that voting bloc. Governor Huckabee has to set himself apart from the other candidates going after the Evangelical vote and show why he is the most electable of the group.
Carly Fiorina- Mrs. Fiorina finds herself back in the under card debate after fighting her way onto the main stage early in the primary debate season. Mrs. Fiorina needs another strong performance like she did back in August to boost her campaign. The under card debate could be a benefit for her as it gives her more speaking time. One of the issues Mrs. Fiorina had in the main debates was that she would have to insert herself to get speaking time. With an economic background that should be her focus tonight in the debate.
Main Stage Debate
John Kasich- Governor Kasich has maintained a center approach in his presidential campaign this year which has not gained a lot of momentum. Governor Kasich appeal is to the more moderate and left of center Republicans. Iowa Republicans are very conservative and many of Mr. Kasich center to left of center ideas have not fared well in Iowa. Mr. Kasich may be looking towards New Hampshire where he more aligns with its Republican voting bloc. Even if the governor is looking to New Hampshire, he is still going to need to do moderately well in Iowa to keep the campaign going. Tonight Governor Kasich should continue to focus on his success as Governor of Ohio and talk of his evangelical roots to try to gain some of the conservative bloc.
Chris Christie- Governor Christie has had some decent debate performances but has had a tough time getting into the front runner status. Mr. Christie comes from a tough state for Republicans, New Jersey, and perhaps his moderate status on many issues has been hurtful in this Republican Primary. Mr. Christie needs to stand out tonight from the others on stage to keep his presidential hopes alive. The focus of the debate tonight for Mr. Christe needs to be on his past record as governor and his focus should be to go after Senator Rubio and Governor Bush. If Governor Christie can take some votes away from those directly in front of him, it could be the boost his campaign needs.
Jeb Bush- Governor Bush hasn’t got his campaign off the ground since it launched. Governor Bush has made known that he is not a fan of debates but what he failed to realize was how important it was for him to do well in those early debates. Governor Bush already carries the stigma of the Bush last name which was going to be a great hurdle to overcome. By not doing well in the first few debates and not establishing himself as his own, it harmed his campaign. In the most recent debates Mr. Bush has performed well, but he still has a lot of ground to cover if he wants to get back to a front runner in the Republican Primary. Governor Bush needs to do his best to go after Donald Trump. The Governor should make his case as to why he is the better candidate over Mr. Trump. While it may not drive away that many voters from Mr. Trump it could lure votes from the Rubio and Cruz campaign because it shows that Governor Bush is the better alternative to Mr. Trump.
Ben Carson- Dr. Carson once the alternative to Mr. Trump has now stated to fade towards the back of the pack again. Dr. Carson needs a strong debate performance tonight to get him back into the front of the filed. Dr. Carson should continue to zero in on the fact that he is not a politician which is a strong point for him but he must at the same time show why he fares to be a better candidate than Mr. Trump who boast of the same thing. Dr. Carson has not been one to go after or attack other candidates which he should continue with but in a non-subtle way state his case as to why the votes should choose him.
Marco Rubio- Senator Rubio has made gains as of late in the polls but still has his work cut out for him to get to be the front runner. Mr. Rubio draws his strength as being a front runner of the establishment candidate for the moment. The Senator draws his strength from many of his policy ideas which he should continue with tonight. There have been issues that he has had to address such as financial issues and voting attendance but they don’t appear detrimental to his campaign. Tonight Senator Rubio should continue more of the same as he has done in past debate performances. Going after Senator Cruze and Mr. Trump would not hurt him in the debate tonight but it wouldn’t necessarily help him either. Mr. Rubio needs to think long term for this primary season. While Senator Cruz and Mr. Trump fight over the anti-establishment voters, Mr. Rubio just needs to continue to make his case for the establishment voters and show why he is the one to beat the Democratic nominee in November.
Ted Cruz- Senator Cruz has seen a huge rise in the polls as of late and appears to be leading in Iowa in some polls. Now is the time that Senator Cruz is going to have to go after Mr. Trump to get the anti-establishment votes. While Mr. Trump and Senator Cruz have kept from going after one another, being one and two in the polls, Mr. Cruz has to set himself apart from Mr. Trump. Winning Iowa would be a great for the Cruz camp but they must keep in mind that New Hampshire is next where Mr. Trump holds a huge lead. Senator Cruz needs to perform strong in the debate tonight and show he is more electable than Mr. Trump.
Donald Trump- Mr. Trump continues to stay at the top of polls nationally and is leading or close behind Senator Cruz in Iowa. Mr. Trump has been the front runner for quite some time but is in risk of losing Iowa to Senator Cruz. Mr Trump needs to go after Mr. Cruz to lure the anti-establishment candidates away from his campaign. If Mr. Trump could win in Iowa that could take some of the momentum away from the Cruz camp and would solidify what appears to be a huge lead in New Hampshire. Mr. Trump needs to perform more of the same as he has done in his past debate performances.
Tonight will be an interesting watch to see who performs well and if anyone flounders. With less than three weeks away from Iowa anything could happen.