It’s that time again: The first Republican primary debate will soon get underway.
For Democrats, the stakes tonight are low. All eight candidates are eager liars who either are fascists or are willing to play fascist. Any Republican with a spine thicker than a sewing needle has already bolted the party. These candidates are the dregs.
For the candidates themselves, though, the stakes are quite high. Each needs to make it through the night with a minimum of gaffes. Each needs to appear plausibly presidential (good luck). They will all be sucking up for the much-needed Fox News vote, which means they need to make a play for Rupert Murdoch’s heart. But the main thing they’ll be going after this evening is convincing the conservative press—and conservative big-dollar donors—that they look “presidential” enough to be worth sponsoring. This is an adopt-a-pet event for the billionaire class.
But just because these candidates are all fascism-enabling and/or theocracy-boosting cretins doesn’t mean we can’t be nice and help them out a little. So, here’s some free advice for the near-certain losers taking the stage tonight.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: Christie’s main challenge will be to prove to viewers that he has a human soul. Christie has his mean streak, and the premise of his campaign is that he is willing to insult Donald Trump a little, while the other candidates mostly alternate between mildly objecting to Trump and fawning over him. Remember, Christie caught COVID-19 and spent a week in the ICU after likely catching it from a no-mask Trump during debate prep in 2020.
My advice to Christie is to employ each of his exactly two defining characteristics: be mean and hate Trump.
Former Vice President Mike Pence: Pence’s goal is simple: Make it through the night without Donald Trump trying to get him killed, again. The debate moderators very much do not want to discuss the Jan. 6 coup attempt, which Pence barely survived, so he won’t likely be forced to once again explain why he wasn’t willing to overthrow American democracy.
Pence could differentiate himself by being the only candidate on the stage tonight with a strong opinion on whether he, personally, deserves to be killed for ruining Trump’s plan.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy: Ramaswamy’s main challenge comes from a medical accident that occurred in the Axovant labs in 2015 that left him permanently smelling like raspberries. This makes Ramaswamy by far the most likely candidate to be attacked and eaten by a bear during the debates. This would be an unprecedented debate failure—but calling things “unprecedented” these days doesn’t mean much, as the universe currently appears to take that as a dare.
While no participant in an American political debate has been attacked by a bear since Stephen Douglas lost a hand during the third and worst of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, with the proliferation of bear sightings of late it cannot be fully ruled out. Suggestion: Bring a bear trap on stage and take the time to set it up. If a bear does appear, or Chris Christie starts acting up, show leadership by luring either or both into the trap.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley: Haley needs to overcome her main obstacle: her indecipherable political positions. She is an archconservative, except when she needs to pander for a few minutes. She is one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, or maybe she’s not, and don’t bother tallying up video clips of her picking one side or the other because that way lies madness.
Haley’s challenge will be to keep the same policy opinions at the end of the debate that she had at the beginning.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina: Scott must use this opportunity to point out that he is an actual senator, as in he is a senator right now, and so he outranks everyone else in the room. None of these other people are senators, nobody gives a damn about mere governors, and Mike Pence was such a nonentity as vice president that by the end he was turning to Dan Quayle for advice.
It will be hard for Scott to truly convey the superiority of his Senate position without being a jerk about it, but with Chris Christie in the room, Scott should be able to get away with some general sneering because, compared with what Christie will be dishing out, nobody will care.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: Once the favorite of the not-Trump race, DeSantis has lost his shine after picking fights with half the businesses in Florida, at least as many government agencies, and every last educator in the state. Having no positive traits, DeSantis shouldn’t waste his time pretending he’s not more bitter or more spineless than Chris Christie. Give it up.
DeSantis’ handlers will want to make certain that his hydraulics are in order, too, before carting him off to the venue. Donald Trump may have given Christie a raging case of COVID in 2020, but even that’s nothing compared to the coverage that would result if DeSantis malfunctioned and sprayed hot motor oil across the audience. Safety first, team.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson: I said I had advice for each of the competitors, but I lied. Nobody will give a damn about Asa Hutchinson tonight, or tomorrow morning, or in 10 years. The best I can do is to suggest he bring a stack of pies and just start throwing them. That’s the only way his name will appear in a headline tomorrow.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum: Burgum is most known for his campaign slogan, “Who The Hell Is This Guy?” and his debate planning last week centered around memorizing a few punchy quips that might jar big-money donors into remembering he exists. However, we’ve now learned that Burgum suffered a leg injury while playing basketball—and that changes the stakes. Likely to be forced to the debate stage on crutches, Burgum’s new problem is with Ramaswamy’s bear-attracting raspberry scent: Burgum will now be the slowest runner on the debate stage. But he’s also proven to be a little athletic, so if ursine danger does show up, the North Dakota governor might consider using one of his crutches to land a well-placed strike on debate moderator Bret Baier’s shin.
Oh, don’t give me that look. You and I both know any of these people would feed Bret Baier to a bear and provide the bear dessert afterward if it meant getting one inch closer to the U.S. presidency. Burgum just has a better excuse to do it than the others.
We talk about the upcoming Republican presidential debate and how sad a situation it is. The Republican Party shot itself in the foot with a Trump-sized bullet and now it’s stuck with him for the foreseeable future. We still try to game out the possible paths the Republican field might take in order to rid themselves of the Donald.