The upcoming Fox television debate with the leading Republican hopefuls will be one hell of a summer entertainment experience. The reason – Donald Trump. Trump continues to remain front and center, while the Republican establishment has no real strategy for responding to The Donald and his “I’ll say anything to rally the conservative base” game plan. Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio will try to present themselves as reasonable, clear-thinking and presidential, but to many conservatives this is a campaign that is being driven by voters who are sick and tired of moderate platitudes, general promises and old-style Washington politics. Even the Democratic base has gotten into the act as Hillary struggles while that Vermont socialist, Bernie Sanders, controls the issue arena of the left.
For Trump this debate is vitally important to his future as a viable presidential candidate. He has the money and the visibility to remain in the mix well beyond the time when the field is whittled down to a few stalwarts. But he will have to show that he has policy prescriptions and a vision that make him more than a caustic thorn in the side of the Republican mainstream. If he presents himself during the debate as a candidate that can indeed balance off the cuff shout outs with commonsense solutions to real issues and a pathway to “Make America Great” then watch out- Trump becomes more than an embarrassing distraction.
It is no secret that Trump is driving the other candidates crazy as they don’t know how to respond to his take no prisoners campaign. If they out shout him with off the wall statements, they risk the support from the mainstream Republicans; if they look too cautious and conciliatory on issues like immigration, Iran and defense they risk the revenge of the grassroots voters in the party who turn out in droves for the primaries. Right now Trump has the advantage and only he can lose that advantage if he presents himself as the candidate of a new version of the Know Nothing Party of the 1840s.
Usually summertime evenings are for sitting on the deck with a cold one or watching baseball, but the Fox Republican debate is just about guaranteed to have some real low drama and memorable charges and counter charges. As the campaign for the President of the United States moves forward it will be interesting to find out if the voters are so sick and tired of Washington politicians that they look to a real outsider who will say anything, even if he doesn’t have real answers to real problems.