The word has gone out that the ABC News GOP debate on February 6th will not feature an ‘under-card’ debate. This almost certainly means that Thursday’s Fox News debate will be the last one to split the debaters into two categories; it probably also means that a few campaigns are now just really waiting for the formality of the Iowa caucus results to drop out of the race entirely. Which means that we’re going to see the GOP debates go down to about five or so pretty darn quickly.
All in all, I think that the best way to describe the undercard debate format is ‘worked better than I expected, and far better than I feared.’ We got some pretty substantial policy talk out of it, and the candidates involved largely were able to state their positions and make their cases. There was a reasonable amount of churn involved, too: people moved up, people moved down, and while the system for determining who moved up and down was not optimal there really weren’t many better options, and none that could be implemented on short notice. So, hey, we got through it and away with it.
…And let’s never do it that way again, OK? Or at least let’s not encourage politicians to stick around for quite so long on the campaign trail. I understand that the trends all favor the GOP candidate this year, but there were people (and I name no names) who never had a shot at the nomination, and who maybe* did the party a little damage this year by sticking around. I’m not judging them too harshly for that, mind you. This is a new thing that we’re doing, here: we’ve never run a wide-open Presidential election before that had the kind of social media and communications and fundraising tools available. It’s never been easier to stay in a Presidential race, and hope springs eternal, and so forth. So, again: I can’t judge them too harshly.
But I am still judging them a little.
*Note the conceded ‘maybe.’ Also: I know that certainly those candidates (and their supporters) would indignantly insist on their right to run, and deplore my presumption in suggesting that they shouldn’t have run. And I agree: they do have that right, and I am being presumptuous. But they still shouldn’t have run.