Veep-orina?Bottom Highlights, Politically Aware Thursday, August 20th, 2015
Commentary: Politically Aware
Judging political debates often has a Mean Girls feel to it. Like, you may think you like someone, but you could be wrong. You wouldn’t make a final decision without asking some friends, in this case the rest of the punditry, because the media coverage and spin have as much to do with the long term winner as anything that happened at the debate.
For instance, I thought Ohio Gov. John Kasich won the prime time debate by stealing the compassionate conservative mantle from former Gov. Jeb Bush, who seemed to shrink within his suit as the night wore on. I found Sen. Marco Rubio eloquent but forgettable, and was surprised when conventional wisdom declared him the winner of the main event.
Fortunately, the political cognoscenti agreed that Carly Fiorina won the day. She cleaned up in the early debate, with the now penniless Gov. Rick Perry coming in a distant second. Her presence was missed in the main debate, where the discussion of Donald Trump’s treatment of women and the race to the right on abortion cried out for the voice of a female Republican. Given the generally poor performance of the candidates in the main debate, some pundits declared Fiorina the winner of both debates, based on her performance in the early debate and the impact of her absence from the main stage.
Fiorina is already gaining support, with a recent Fox News poll placing her in seventh with 5 percent, a point ahead of Rubio, the alleged debate winner. She will likely make the main stage for the next debate, where a similarly strong performance could push her presidential polling higher. She may have helped herself most, however, in the vice-presidential sweepstakes.
While I’m willing to give Fiorina the first place trophy from the Fox News debate, I don’t think she can win the Republican nomination. Unlike Democrats, who are “Ready for Hillary” (if she isn’t crushed under the weight of her emails), Republicans are not ready to nominate a woman for president. More importantly, they are not ready to nominate someone who has never held elected office. That may sound crazy if you focus on Trump’s media attention, but it is sane based on the math.
The same Fox News poll has Trump in first at 25 percent and Dr. Ben Carson in second at 12 percent. Add in Fiorina’s 5 percent, and that is still only 42 percent for the non-politicians. Even if one of the three can consolidate that vote as candidates drop out, they will lose to whoever consolidates the establishment vote.
That candidate will need a vice-presidential nominee who can appease the anti-politician voters, add to the general election coalition, and take on Hillary Clinton. Some of Fiorina’s best lines are attacks on Clinton. If she can keep Republican women and some independents from defecting to Clinton, she would be worth far more than a choice designed to carry a specific state. (This rarely works and Clinton can win without Ohio and Florida.) She may not be able to win a majority of primary voters, but if she can make herself an acceptable champion of disaffected Republicans, she just might sew up the Veepstakes.
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