As everyone who follows politics knows, tonight is the big night when the first Republican debate designed to choose a nominee to compete in next year's general election is held in Cleveland, Ohio. It is fitting that a political Party that has been down on its luck in recent national elections is holding its first presidential debate in a city whose sports teams have not won a national championship since the Cleveland Browns accomplished that task in 1964. And although the Republicans have wrestled control of the Senate and the House of Representatives away from the Democrats in just a span of 4 years, it has not translated into very many legislative victories for the beleaguered Party.
As all the pundits have said, the candidates with the most to lose in tonight's debate are frontrunners Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. This is especially true for the fiery, yet unfocused and politically unvarnished Mr. Trump. This week the Donald has prepared his devotees and opponents alike that he is not a debater. This will further highlight his glaring deficiency in the characteristics of statesmanship and presidential bearing needed to win a general election. Mr. Bush's take away from tonight's debate will not be so extreme. I look for him to neither harm nor help his cause in any substantial way.
The two candidates on the main stage tonight I see as helping themselves most, and distinguishing themselves from the crowded field, are Scott Walker and John Kasich. Governor Walker and Governor Kasich have both been successful in their respective states. And while Mr. Walker has greater name recognition, Mr. Kasich should not be counted out. Governor Kasich has achieved top ten status after only entering the race two weeks ago. He also appears to have a rare talent of being able to combine reasoned plain talk with just the right amount of passion, something missing from the poll leader in this race.
The candidates that did not make the top ten in the popularity polls are scheduled for what has been called by some as the "kids table debate." It is unlikely that any of these Republican National Committee step-children will catapult themselves into the top tier of the race as a result of their participation in the not-ready-for-prime-time debate. However, there are certainly some substantial candidates that will step onto that earlier stage and belt out their message with passion and reason in hopes to gain traction in the polls.
I would watch for Carly Fiorina to be the candidate in the first debate who will be the focus of attention in tomorrow morning's debate post-mortem. As for the main event, I do not think the focus of attention by pundits will be on a winner as much as the disaster that is sure to be Donald Trump's performance. This will be good and bad. It will be good because it means the cartoonish sensibilities that the Donald has brought to the race will begin to fade. It will be bad because a substantive performance by one or many of the other candidates will be overshadowed. No matter what happens tonight, it certainly will be a big show worth the price of admission.