Early Presidential debates always seem to appeal only to the hardest core of political followers. Yet, even among hardcore Republicans and politicos of both parties, the debate on Thursday night in Greenville is shaping up to be yawner and a non event in the nomination process.
Here is why. While no disrespect is meant to the five participants, former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, former United States Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, Herman Cain and former Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico, their debate is missing the biggest names being tossed around in the GOP field.
Unlike recent Presidential races, the heavyweights are sitting and biding their time, considering things, and expressing regrets to the Greenville event. Absent from debating will be Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, Ambassador Jon Huntsman, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and of course Donald Trump. Indeed, only Pawlenty has been mentioned as a serious contender for the nomination.
That might be a wise move by the heavyweight contenders. The primary season is months away and President Obama will have the major media attention on Thursday with his visit to Ground Zero in New York. Fair or unfair, the debate among the five GOP candidates in Greenville will take a backseat to the coverage of President Obama in New York. Count on that.
Such is curious. While so many GOP heavyweights seem to be unwilling to jump all the way in the race, President Obama's approval ratings, even in the aftermath of the Bin Laden operation, still hover around fifty percent, which is dismal for an incumbent President of the United States who just pulled off a military operation of such importance. It would seem GOP contenders would be chomping at the bit to get into the race full forced at this point. But, they are not.
We at VUI wrote before that there is no Ronald Reagan out there like there was in 1979, just waiting to pounce on then President Carter in 1980. Mike Huckabee comes to mind, with his radio commentaries and columns, like Reagan's in the late 1970s, but at this point Reagan was committed. It is a strange primary season shaping up. One, that at this point, bodes well for President Obama's re-election chances.
Think of the contrast to the independents that decide elections on Thursday. Five guys most have never heard of will spend the evening sniping at each other and President Obama, while President Obama goes to Ground Zero to rally Americans after the operation that killed Usama Bin Laden.
The GOP needs a game changer with fundraising connections, strong political ties and the charisma to match Obama's. Jeb Bush, what are you doing over the next few months? If not Jeb Bush, can Huntsman develop into a contender? Can Huckabee? Will Romney cool his temper? Can any of those candidates develop the "Big Mo" Bush the Elder talked about? Time will tell. But Thursday night will not.