By Mehmet Yegin
Not a lot has been going on for the Democratic Party in the 2016 U.S. presidential election race. Hilary Clinton is, without a doubt, the dominant candidate. Every once in a while, the name of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders or the possibility of Vice President Joe Biden warming up for the race comes up. Yet, no one seems to have the power to take on Hillary Clinton — there is about a 35-point difference between Clinton and her closest competitor in the opinion polls.
The Republican Party’s situation on the other hand is not as static as that of the Democratic Party. The race for the Republican nomination is in no way limited to a small number of candidates as is the case with the Democrats. In fact, the sheer amount of candidates running for the Republican nomination, 17 in total, makes it difficult to even determine the format of the debates. For this reason, Fox News’ recent Republican presidential primaries debate was separated into two entirely different segments, one of which hosted the top ten highest-polling candidates and the other the lowest seven. Although very talented politicians are running when compared to the 2012 primary elections, the main problem for the Republican Party seems to be businessman Donald Trump’s radical outputs that shift the ground of the discussion.
Not only is Trump ‘trolling’ the debates, but he is also hinting at running as an independent if he is not chosen as the Republican candidate. This causes great concern for the party because it would split the Republican vote, and, in turn, enable the Democratic candidate to most probably win the election.
It is very likely that Trump, a successful businessman with an anti-intellectual approach and straightforward, blunt way of speaking, could win the approval of at least some of the Republican electoral base. Specifically, his sharp remarks, such as those about illegal immigrants, have actually increased his support in the public opinion polls. In this way, Trump, according to RCP poll averages, had been able to put a 12-point difference between himself and his closest competitor, Jeb Bush. However, in the recent debate, the businessman was unable to boast the same performance as he does in his successful personal statements.
Fox News’ first Republican Party presidential primaries debate
The first debate among the Republican Party’s candidates that are hoping to become the Republican nominee for the White house was hosted by the conservative Fox News network and took place in Cleveland, Ohio. While the debate allowed some candidates to get a head start in the race, others quickly fell behind. Yet, no one made a deadly mistake that may result in withdrawing their candidacy as Rick Perry had eventually done in the 2012 race after failing to name three federal agencies.
It can be said that the debate’s most prominent candidate was Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who did not have as strong of a standing before the debate. Exhibiting the strongest performance in the debate, Rubio was commanded the board on nearly every topic topics and was able to give answers that supported his candidacy.
The second most prominent candidate turned out to be Ohio Governor John Kasich, who also enjoyed the home field advantage seeing that the debates were taking place in his state. In this sense, the cheers from the audience underlined his strong statements, yet they also disguised his not so strong statements. It would not be wrong to expect increasing public support for Kasich as a result of his prepared and solid entrance into the race as seen in the debates.
Ostensibly, the loser of the debate was Donald Trump. Despite the additional fact that he could not completely answer some questions, it is still too early to tell whether the debate will push Trump out of the race. Surveys on the debate’s effect on public opinion have yet to be released. It should be mentioned that Trump’s bluntness attracts outraged voters that have not received what they are looking for from the politics of the Republican Party. This anger once surfaced with the Tea Party movement yet it never gained the influence that it hoped for. Thus, Republicans might not be so quick to abandon Trump as a candidate.
After Trump, former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush, received the most scrutiny from the moderators. Jeb Bush is a candidate that not only has to defend himself and his policies like the rest but he also has the additional task of justifying his father and brother’s performances as presidents. Jeb Bush, who constantly receives criticism for attempting to establish a familial dynasty in the White House, has dropped his last name from his campaign, instead focusing on his first name. With his “They Call Me Jeb” slogan, Jeb Bush is attempting to rid himself of the baggage that comes along with being a Bush. Despite his lackluster performance, he was nonetheless able to portray a consistent and stable image of himself as a candidate.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also entered the race with the inheritance from his father, former Congressman Ron Paul. Rand Paul has acquired popularity for his libertarian views, and this stance has gained him a limited number of loyal supporters, all the while preventing him from tapping into the mainstream Republican base. To overcome this, Paul is attempting to find a path between libertarianism and the mainstream Republican ideals. However, due to the one-minute time limit allotted to responding to the posed questions, he had trouble explaining his perplexing position. Furthermore, Paul, who assumed a very aggressive attitude towards the other candidates right off the bat in order to improve his own standing and to receive more attention, failed to portray a firm and positive image.
Another interesting candidate in the debate was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. While Cruz attempted to address the Republican audience with a rigid conservative approach, he still remains a marginal option for the general electorate. As for the other candidates, there was nothing outstanding about their performances during the debate. African American neurosurgeon Ben Carson proved unable to display a solid command of the material and the audience at large. Moreover, it seems that a candidate whose name has consistently appeared in recent Republican elections but has never made it past the primaries, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is far from changing his reoccurring fate in this election cycle.