The preseason is over, old rivalries have taken on renewed bitterness, and the stakes for early February only keep getting higher.
Yes, it’s fitting that the that the second big GOP debate is taking place just after the beginning of the NFL’s regular season. And the clash in Simi Valley has just as much potential as the weekend’s gridiron matchups to yield pile-ons, injuries, and letdowns for a fan base with bright-eyed hopes. So instead of our typical pre-debate post on “THINGS” to watch, let’s look at the eight matchups on stage that we think could change the race’s dynamics the most.
Donald Trump vs. Carly Fiorina: A juggernaut is coming face-to-face for the first time on the big stage with a rival who just might have the right skill set to thwart his offense. Fiorina didn’t make the cut for the first GOP debate, but – with a well of support behind her – she muscled her way onstage in Simi Valley. Like some of the more mainstream candidates, she hasn’t been afraid to jab back at Trump, but she doesn’t have the D.C. insider baggage that has weighed down attacks by candidates like Jeb Bush. It’ll be the first time the two have interacted in person since Trump insulted Fiorina’s appearance, a slam that earned a deft response from Fiorina’s super PAC.
Hugh Hewitt versus Trump/Carson: Referees matter. And the presence of a respected conservative foreign policy wonk on the host panel for CNN is certainly going to matter for candidates with notable gaps in their knowledge of the Middle East. The last time Trump and Hewitt met, Trump labeled his questions about the Quds Force as “gotcha” material. Hewitt has tangled with Carson before too, questioning his knowledge of the history of Islam. It’s one thing to fumble a radio interview; it’s another to look like a deer in the headlights on television when a rival can easily jump in with the right answer.
Team Establishment vs. Jeb Bush: Let’s say you’re Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, or any of the other candidates who can’t exactly claim to be political newbies. Does it make sense to go after Donald Trump? Or is your best bet to try to draw contrasts with the person whose name is most synonymous (fairly or not) with the Washington Establishment — Jeb Bush? When huge majorities of GOP primary …Read More