There is potential for a real sea change in the presidential race starting tonight. With a team of economic experts moderating what they promise will be a serious debate, the candidates will find themselves in a format where they can really shine or go down in flames.
The two people with the most to loose, of course, will be Trump and Carson. This is not only because they are the present front-runners, but because the topic of discussion is where they have consistently struggled to articulate a message.
When listening to Carson’s message, your gut tells you his position is correct. When taxes are cut the economy grows. Reporters have been challenging him on the “cost” of his tax cuts. These challenges have not been made aggressively. It is almost as if the media is teeing it up for him to drive down the center of the fairway, and he has whiffed it every time. I’ll address the correct answer to “costs” in a moment because Carson is not alone in offering tax cuts.
Trump will likely be the real wild card tonight. There will be no “gotcha” questions. Both FOX and CSNBC have been duly chastised for the most modest of “gotchas”. In FOX’s case it was the first two questions of the first debate that appeared to be direct assaults on Trump. But since then, Trump has not demonstrated the ability to speak on a socially mature level. If he is handed a powder puff tonight, an honest observer would only consider that an even worse scenario. If he gets an easy, straight-forward question and comes away sounding like he usually does, the blush will definitely come off the bloom.
Usually, when I criticize Trump in this way, his supporters get a bit defensive and point out that Trump is, at least, being honest. Of that group who have read my book, many ask if that is not the point of the book. Such a question is an incomplete understanding of the main points.
First, there is the point about honesty. How do we know he is being honest? He shouts about illegals. So what? It’s a popular issue. He blasts the other candidates. Not unusual (although as front runner, he might spend more time blasting Clinton instead of punching down). To simply say something is not an indicator of honesty in and of itself. To then not be able to elaborate on ANY point shows at best, a lack of preparation and research, and at worst, that maybe this man is dishonest. Maybe.
I did indeed say, in 16 20 24, the the most important rule is to be yourself. But it is not enough to do only that. None of the rules I lay out for winning office are by themselves enough. Yes, be yourself. Yes, lean in and don’t fear controversy. But an illiterate ditch digger can be himself. Kanye West doesn’t fear controversy. But you wouldn’t assume either is qualified to hold elected office.[1. If it ever came to it, I’d go for an unknown ditch digger. At least we wouldn’t already know he was a race-obsessed punk.]
Of equal importance is the ability to explain your position. This can be done in detail on the stump or in the form of an elevator speech to provide a sound bite. And this is where Trump fails miserably. He has built a career as the face-man for a real estate machine. While he has been fronting the cash and schmoozing the buyers, polishing his brand by being obnoxious, real negotiators and researchers have been doing the real work and negotiating the big deals. Being a market face-man and being an articulate and capable leader are worlds apart. And this is what I think will begin to twig on people tonight.
The next in line for a possible thumping is Jeb. His recent reboot isn’t impressing anyone. I said two weeks ago he’d be lucky to make it to this debate. The fact is his campaign is simply rolling forward like a spent wave sliding onto the beach. With no energy behind him he is having trouble even disturbing the sand. If he doesn’t have a Reagan/Mondale moment tonight, he is well and truly finished. I suspect he’d be dumb enough to stay on until the money ran out, but that would be embarrassing to watch. He will either make himself a solid front-runner tonight or he’ll find himself lobbying the republican nominee for a cabinet job.
So cui bono? In tonight’s debate, who might benefit from failure at the top? Well, to begin with, being in a smaller forum in the warm-up debate, Christie will command the spotlight. His numbers will go up after tonight. At the grownups’ table, Rubio and Cruz will be poised to take the ball and run with it. I would say that questions about personal finances may make Rubio wince a bit, but this is actually a shot for both of them to move well into double digits.
I do not dismiss Firoina or Paul, they can make a play here. But it would have to be a very bold one to eclipse the other front-runners.
As for the “costs” of tax cuts, and more to the point, what does this all mean in real terms to America, this is a red herring question. First, whatever tax cuts cost the government is a secondary issue. It’s not their money we are talking about. If the American tax payer says we are paying too much into an overly complicated system, then we are. Whatever tax cuts make it through the legislative process will have to be accounted for.
But fortunately for the government, as all thinking people know, a tax cut doesn’t really mean that the same percentage will be denied the government forever. When an economy has been running on a given level of taxes, and in our case an economy has been languishing at a low growth pace for eight years, a tax cut will stimulate a disproportionate level of growth. The government will benefit from new revenue streams and could potentially end up with more total dollars a year or two after the big “cut” then it was getting before. And shy of that, if the specter of waning revenues causes the government to get serious and make real spending cuts, so much the better.[2. Chapters 6 and 7, 16 20 24]
I doubt there is as much excitement about tonight as there was for the first debate. Too bad. There will be a lot more movement as a result of what we will see on FOX Business Network than from all previous debates. People will be watching the news over the next couple of days and wondering what the hell happened. But you, smart voter, will already know.
Matt Jordan is a travel writer, political commentator and author of 16 20 24. Get your SIGNED copy here!
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