Why the ‘kids’ table’ might be better than the main GOP debate Thursday

Fox Debate Field

The field is set for tomorrow night’s first GOP 2016 debate, and I wonder if I’m alone in thinking the undercard might be the more interesting event.

First let’s look at the primetime debate, which will air from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fox News Channel. The 10 highest-ranked candidates according to a poll average determined by Fox will participate (in alphabetical order): Jeb Bush, Benjamin Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Scott Walker. Two hours divided by 10 candidates yields 12 minutes per candidate — before, of course, we subtract time for the opening pomp and circumstance, the asking of questions and commercials. So each candidate is likely to get less than 10 minutes, though I’d like you to keep that 12-minute figure in mind when we get to the undercard.

The story of this debate has pretty much already been written: Will Trump get the best of the other nine candidates, or will they get the best of him? The billionaire businessman has already swallowed up more than a third of the news airtime the three major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) have devoted to Republican candidates since Jan. 1, even though he’s only been a prominent figure in the campaign for about two months now. Such airtime — campaigns call it “earned media” vs. the kind they have to pay for — is vital oxygen to campaigns, and Trump is taking up a disproportionate share of it. The 15 candidates not named Trump or Bush have gotten only 40 percent of the airtime combined. (The piece I linked with that information makes a case that Trump hasn’t harmed the other candidates because he’s merely increased the time the networks devote to the campaign at all. To buy this rising-tide-lifts-all-boats theory, I’d have to see how coverage increased, or didn’t, at this stage of the campaign in previous elections.)

So whether the other candidates overtly try to bring Trump down a peg or not, the narrative will be all about Trump’s standing after the debate vs. before it. It will take something truly memorable from another candidate to stick in the collective consciousness as much or more than Trump’s performance either way. The men thought to be likeliest to win the nomination — Bush, Rubio and Walker — are probably even more likely than usual to play it safe in such an early debate. If Trump plays it safe, too, this debate could fail to live up to the growing hype.

Turning to the undercard, let me say first off that I don’t expect it to (ahem) trump the primetime event in subsequent coverage. What I am about to say applies more to the political junkies who will watch every minute of each event, are open to a range of candidates, and really want to learn as much as possible about as many of them as they can. People like me and my blog readers 🙂

The seven candidates in this forum — Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore (a former Virginia governor), Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum — strike me as much likelier to take some risks, in the hopes of surpassing one or two candidates above them to reach the top 10. They’ll get 90 minutes (starting at 5 p.m., also on Fox News), which divided by seven (and not accounting for the other elements of the broadcast) comes out to almost 13 minutes each. So they could get slightly more time on camera, and that time could seem even more prominent because it is shared with six other people rather than nine.

Further, this field features a candidate who’s never served in office and is getting a stronger-than-expected look in Iowa and New Hampshire in Fiorina; an unknown wild card in Gilmore; a defense hawk in Graham; probably the smartest and arguably the most accomplished candidate in Jindal; a blast from the past and moderate in Pataki; another highly experienced candidate who has been the most outspoken about some of the GOP’s pressing issues in Perry; and a social-issues warrior and runner-up in 2012 in Santorum. That’s not your typical group of also-rans. It’s a group that in some ways is more ideologically diverse than the primetime group, at the very least in the issues they choose to press, and the nature of their event makes them a bit more likely to delve into those issues rather than attacking a surprising front-runner. This event has been derided as the “kids’ table,” but that’s an unfair slight to some serious people. I’ll also be curious to see if any of the undercard participants get asked by the networks to go on after the primetime debate ends, or first thing Friday morning, to critique their rivals’ performance.

I could easily see Fiorina, Perry and perhaps Jindal making the kind of impression that gives them a little boost in the polls. And with so many tightly bunched candidates, a little boost could have a significant impact. I’ll say this much: The more I think about it, the more I think I need to watch this one as intently as the primetime event.

Reader Comments 0

58 comments
RonMexico
RonMexico

Case in point. You're doing it again. Man up and defend your positions and stop digitally shushing people.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RonMexico You're talking about the comment below continuing to complain about a policy everyone else has made their peace with? It's not really relevant to the thread, is it? Don't worry, I read every word of it. But the post about the policy speaks for itself -- including the complaints you raised -- and the policy stands.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

Hopefully during the debates the question of using US military force around the world will be put to every candidate. For me, and others I suspect, that is THE most important issue.

If I hear so much as a hint from any of the gentlemen (or lady) that they advocate continuing our role as World Policeman they'll never get my vote.  

RonMexico
RonMexico

Kyle, why is it that you insist on approving all my comments before they're displayed? Have I ever violated any of the terms & conditions of ajc.com? Have I cursed, name-called, slandered or otherwise unfairly attacked any other commenters (or you)? 

When you leave my comments to fester for 12 hours or longer, it's very clear that you're just trying to suppress speech that you don't like. Sure, you eventually approve them, but it's usually long after the conversation is over and you've had an opportunity to move onto your next subject.

Does the AJC ombudsman or editor know about your tendency to censor your readers? 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RonMexico And for the record, I just went back through all the posts for this week and didn't find any pending comments of yours. You might want to check that there wasn't a glitch that erased your comment before getting on your high "censorship" horse.

lvg
lvg

@RonMexico If he didn't censor some of mine, which i expected  he sure ain't censoring yours uless you are using profanity and personal attacks.

lvg
lvg

Wow! Fox News is hosting two circus performances in one night!

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@DaveFrancis I'm not in the habit of approving comments that are nearly 1,000 words long because they tend to bog down the comment thread. If you'll split yours into 2-3 comments, I'll approve them. Thanks.

Likewise
Likewise

I'm surprised there aren't more Republican candidates.  You know anyone can be a clown.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Kasich is the best of all of those fellows and lady,  Trump has just as good of chance as any of them and Bush has taken too much money to sit and play nice. Trump eats him live on Faux, I hope.

BK37
BK37

Time to come up with a drinking game for this.  Take a swig everytime someone says the following:  religious freedom, Hillary's e-mails, tyranny, repeal Obamacare, BENGHAZI!.  At that rate, you will be completely hammered in the first 15 minutes.

heezback
heezback

@BK37 Better yet for those seeking to get "hammered" quickly; add up the number of days that your list of buzzwords has effectively been ignored by the "journalist" crowd and take a tiny sip.  One's state of hammeredness should have a rapid onset and long lasting effects. 

sbatl
sbatl

@heezback That drinking game sounds terrible. You are a disgrace sir. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@BK37 The good one is "repeal and replace"


Drink every time you hear that one. Chug the entire bottle if you actually get to hear what the replace part entails. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Hedley_Lammar @BK37 "Investments" for the Dems, you would be drunk quickly.  We need to invest more in "green energy", infrastructure, poverty, education, job training, or cities and Chug the entire bottle if you hear them mention how to pay for it.


lvg
lvg

@BK37 you left out three biggies- abortion, illegals and iran.

BK37
BK37

@heezback @BK37 Agreed.  If our media was as "liberal" as some say, they would do a much better job of calling them out on this type of stuff.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Anything would be preferable to listening to the old hag and the crazy socialist argue over who would be the most left-wing extremist and raise taxes more, spend more money, and limit free-market capitalism.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@Jefferson1776 @LilBarryBailout

The people whose incomes are dropping and who are falling further behind income-inequality-wise are getting used to it.

Conservatives intend to get them some help.  In the form of a job.

heezback
heezback

@Jefferson1776 @LilBarryBailout I could use some help with my chores and will pay ten bucks an hour for hard work.  Lunch and water provided.  Cash paid at end of the day.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@LilBarryBailout @Jefferson1776 The people whose incomes are dropping and who are falling further behind income-inequality-wise are getting used to it.


FYI that has been going on a lot longer than Obama.

Democrats are talking about raising wages. Republicans not so much. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

I think immigration is a much much bigger issue for the voters than any of the other candidates want to admit, so Trump will keep raking up approval.  If the other candidates can't find a way to demonstrate some authenticity on the immigration issue, folks are going to continue to assume they are just pandering for votes, and will defer to the Chamber of Commerce position when elected.  


People have been deceived by promises before and after about 30 years, they have about given up on establishment politicians to do something.  They know that neither party wants to slow down or halt immigration.  Trump will continue to win approval if he can keep the focus on the immigration issue, he will lose approval, if he has to talk about issues other than trade and immigration, because he doesn't have clear thought out policies on other issues.  I think people are so sick of the lack of success in securing the borders, they are at this stage, willing to forgive Trump's shortcomings in other areas.



Dusty2
Dusty2

Go. Kyle, Go!! We need all the info we can get on these candidates.  I prefer the late show instead of the first kid's table.  Can't get enchanted with Jindal at all. Can't find the charisma!


And do keep whacking the troll, Hedley (why did he recently change the spelling of his name?  Two different people but both paid  trolls?)


I have my decision made for what it is worth:  Pres. Jeb Bush with V-Pres.  Carson.  There we get experience, good character  and  intellect  already proven in the past.  .  That is what  I want.  

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Dusty2  And do keep whacking the troll, Hedley (why did he recently change the spelling of his name?  Two different people but both paid  trolls?)


One person. Not paid. 


Bursting the low info bubble you guys live in is reward enough. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Kyle, don't know if you saw Gilmore in his center seat position on the Fox panel, the night he declared.  I was totally impressed with his qualifications and how well prepared he was.  Prior to that I hardly knew who he was, just another former governor.  He is an old white guy with average to poor charisma, so I don't expect him to advance very quickly, but if he gets a chance to throw out his experience, qualifications, and clearly well thought out solutions, he should make traction, if folks actually care about solutions and policies anymore. 

Caius
Caius

"...probably the smartest and arguably the most accomplished candidate in Jindal;.."

Kyle, you sure you want to stick with this statement?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Caius He was a Rhodes scholar. He is a two-term governor after serving as a U.S. congressman and a high-level aide to a cabinet secretary. He has implemented major reforms in Louisiana and weathered the BP oil spill crisis. Granted, he has his detractors in Louisiana, but I'll stick with my statement.

BK37
BK37

@Caius I was about to ask the same thing.  

straker
straker

Kyle, you spent some time in Belgium, I believe.


Wanna bet those Europeans are getting a big laugh out of our political circus?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@straker Considering Belgium recently went more than a year and a half without an elected government* -- longer than Iraq after Hussein was toppled -- due to fractured politics, no, I don't think they're laughing at us.


*A caretaker government kept the bureaucracy going, but there was no parliamentary action.

Rickster_
Rickster_

To use a sports analogy, the main debate Thursday night is the NCAA tournament. The undercard debate is the NIT. Even the winner of the NIT tournament is considered the "65th best team" in the country.


It will be hard (but not impossible) for the NIT candidates to move up in the rankings.

Wena Mow Masipa How
Wena Mow Masipa How

Wishful thinking, Kyle. GOP immolation this cycle will have conservative pundits wishing for the severely conservative Mittster.


Squirrel_Whisperer
Squirrel_Whisperer

I was disappointed when Carly Fiorina wasn't named to the main debate, but I'm glad to see her in the other. I haven't heard her speak much, but what I have heard, I like. She has a direct, to-the-point way of speaking that doesn't leave the listener wondering what the heck she just said. The Republican Party could do much worse.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 The billionaire businessman has already swallowed up more than a third of the news airtime the three major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) have devoted to Republican candidates since Jan. 1


Because he is leading the polls ( And frankly pulling away ). He has a strong voice inside the GOP. In fact i'm betting many consider him the leader of the party at this point. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @Hedley_Lammar Its the chicken and the egg argument


But to pretend somehow he is only leading the polls because of the news coverage is just false. 


Heck he got a bump out of saying McCain wasn't a war hero. You would think that would be an instance where the increased coverage would hurt him.


Face it. His xenophobic views of deport them all resonates with MANY Republican voters. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @Hedley_Lammar It's why so many people on here have accused you of being a paid Democratic troll, and why I have a hard time arguing.


LOL


Trump said Wednesday in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash that as president he would deport all undocumented immigrants and then allow the "good ones" to reenter the country through an "expedited process" and live in the U.S. legally, though not as citizens.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar His suggestion is like tagging up on a fly ball. Not exactly what most people think of when they hear "deport them all."

Juanx
Juanx

@Kyle_Wingfield @Hedley_Lammar  ...dang Kyle, you sound just like Rush Limbaugh.."contributed to versus only", in my neighborhood that's called nit picking.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Juanx In my neighborhood, it's called completely different meanings.

Or maybe you think the guy who drives in the game-winning run is the only reason his team won the game?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar "to pretend somehow he is only..."

That last word, only, is a perfect example of how you twist others' words to make them seem unreasonable. I said "contributed to." You turn that into "only." Of course it's false to say that. But no one is saying that.

And let's see the evidence behind "he got a bump out of saying McCain wasn't a war hero."

Also, try to keep up. Trump's no longer saying "deport them all," if he ever was. I'm not defending him, but this is another perfect example of distorting the truth to further a narrative. It's why so many people on here have accused you of being a paid Democratic troll, and why I have a hard time arguing.