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So, superbowl or happy hour? Let’s debate that

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Ian White                Ian White

And so, on Thursday, the first seven Republican Party candidates for the 2017-2020 presidency to be granted a televised public debate lined up to tell us why they should be their party’s nominee in next year’s election.
The event was dubbed the Happy Hour debate but I’m sure the runners and riders would rather have been involved in the main event beginning three hours and 50 minutes later.
That “suberbowl” debate featured 10 more candidates – the front runners, apparently, if you believe Fox News’ latest ratings poll. I’m not that certain because political polls are notoriously inaccurate. Error margins of plus or minus three percentage points are common, which is huge for candidates who, like former Texas governor Rick Perry, was credited with less than three per cent of the poll total.
Ratings
Because this particular poll is actually an average of five including four conducted by other organizations – Bloomberg, CBS News, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University – I wonder whether the margin of error is exacerbated rather than diminished when it comes to the final analysis.
But hey ho – no one in the race is complaining about the math, so let’s move on. The point of the two debates was for the candidates to boost their ratings in the next poll, so who were the winners and losers?
The pundits awarded the Happy Hour debate to former Hewlett Packard boss Carly Fiorina by a considerable margin, presenting Mr Perry with a tough battle to break into the next Top Ten. On top of that, my guess is that the rest of America would rather not have a man who once threatened to secede Texas from the Union succeed the nation’s 44th commander in chief.
Of Thursday’s Top Ten, I thought Wisconsin governor Scott Walker put in the least convincing performance in comparison with his third place in the qualification poll. Not enough to sink his chances for the next round, perhaps, but sufficient to suggest he’ll have to sharpen up if he’s to last the distance.
I loved neurosurgeon Ben Carson but not just for his brilliant closing speech, although it will be long remembered. As a Johnny-come-lately politician joining a pack of wolves baying for the blood of the piggie in the middle, his only chance was to adopt a presidential air – and he did so impeccably.
As the latest shining star of a revered Republican dynasty, former Florida governor Jeb Bush was surely entitled to do the same. Alas, I think it was a mistake at this stage of the race. Next week, we’ll all remember Dr Carson’s measured style, but what will we be able to recall of young Jeb’s contribution to a debate that included verbal fisticuffs between New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Kentucky senator Rand Paul?
Add to that Paul’s attempt to kill off the piggie, alias Donald Trump, and Master Bush looked positively bland and not the larger-than-life character the Republican electorate apparently wants to take on the Democrats’ nominee in November next year.
Trump, irrepressible as ever and with a huge polling lead going into the evening, was like the curate’s egg in the debate – good in parts but horribly bad in others. Can he survive to the next round? Not if the studio focus group has its way, but there’s a lot more polling to be done before we find out.
Of the other four in the main event, Florida senator Marco Rubio looked solid and Texas senator Ted Cruz impressed with his passion for the truth until he told a whopper about Iran’s nuclear-bomb-making capability. Cut that out, Ted!
All this, I reckon, leaves former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Ohio governor John Kasich looking over their shoulders at the fast-rising Fiorina. Not because either of them was bad – quite the contrary – but because, for all the virtues they both displayed as a potential president, they each seemed rather too “nice” to excite a majority of voters from outside their own states.
Ian White is editor of The Post. Contact him at ian@thepostnewspaper.net

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