Posted by Eddie Bejarano on August 04, 2015 in Blog

GOP_DebateThis Thursday, August 6, 2015, Republican presidential candidates will gather in Cleveland, Ohio for the first nationally televised debate of the election season. Fox News Channel has controversially decided that the debate, slated for prime-time viewing, will feature the top 10 candidates, determined by an average of recent national polls, while the rest of the field will debate earlier in the evening. While this debate is unlikely to make or break any particular candidate’s campaign, it is significant for two reasons. First, many GOP candidates will be provided a national platform from which to enhance their name recognition. Second, a national audience will see whether the debate is a source of nuanced policy discussion or is mired by controversial comments and personal attacks.

According to the most recent polling averages from RealClearPolitics, the following candidates would be on Fox’s debate stage later this week; real estate mogul and TV personality Donald Trump, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Sen. Rand Paul (KY), Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. For any of the top 10 candidates not named Donald Trump, the upcoming debate provides an important opportunity to broadcast their name, face and message to a national audience.

Leading up to this week’s debate, Mr. Trump has held a monopoly over news headlines and seen his popularity steadily rise. Trump's bombastic approach was best exemplified in his announcement speech in which he slandered, with no basis, Mexican immigrants. Following these remarks Trump saw his standing in polls increase. In an attempt to raise their own standing in the polls ahead of Thursday’s debate, several candidates have used unorthodox means to increase their popularity. From Sen. Lindsey Graham’s instructional video on how to destroy your cell phone, to Sen. Rand Paul taking on the tax code with a chainsaw, to Sen. Ted Cruz cooking bacon with the help of an automatic weapon, candidates are revealing how desperate they are to enhance their national visibility.

The combination of Mr. Trump’s rise to prominence and Fox News Channel’s debate rules has led some political pundits to question what kind of debate to expect this Thursday. Will participants focus on defining and contrasting their policy positions? Will one of the candidates engage Mr. Trump in a rhetorical slugfest if he chooses to make contentious remarks? Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, reasserted the need for a substantive GOP debate when he stated, “we just want our folks to concentrate on what they should do to make our country better.”

Thursday night’s debate will be the first time that millions of American voters listen to candidates such as Gov. Walker, Sen. Rubio, and former Gov. Huckabee speak on an assortment of policy issues. It is in the interest of each Republican candidate, and the party at large, to ensure that the debate does not become a gold mine for tabloid worthy headlines. Republican candidates must remember that the first impression can be the most important one when meeting someone for the first time. It is essential for them to use this first impression to show Republican voters that they are the most viable GOP candidate, and show the broader American electorate why their vision of the U.S. is best suited for this nation.

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