The Meta Debate
Tonight it’s not about the candidates. It’s about the dynamic of the campaign itself.
Tonight I’ll be live on YouTube with my buddy Tom Nichols the minute the debate wraps. Then tomorrow night it’s the return of Thursday Night Bulwark with Bill Kristol, Mona Charen, and me at 8 p.m. in the East. Location details for TNB will be emailed tomorrow.
1. The Stakes
The stakes for your median presidential primary debate are small. Usually you have a frontrunner looking to protect a lead, a couple of challengers looking to take him on, and then everyone else kind of doing their own thing. That’s because the first rule of debate is Do No Harm. As a result, primary debates tend to be more about jockeying for position than landing haymakers. Candidates want to stake out positions they can ride, or try to earn a look from voters who haven’t really considered them yet.
I want to emphasize how wildly out of the norm tonight’s debate is.
No former president has run for president in our lifetimes.
No candidate under multiple criminal indictments has ever led a presidential primary.
Since the advent of modern polling, no non-incumbent president or sitting VP has had a lead as large as Trump’s.
The guy currently lapping the field will not be at the debate.
In short: I think you have to throw out the entire historical data set in order to have a frame for what this debate is really about. Because it’s only really about two things.