Perhaps there are many who aren’t paying attention to this, but today Cleveland, Ohio will be the center of the political universe. This evening, the first GOP presidential primary debate will be held — in two segments. There are seventeen GOP candidates vying for the Republican party’s 2016 presidential nomination. The debate has a second tier of candidates — seven — who will take the stage earlier in the day. Then, in prime time, the top 10 based on an average of national polls hit the deck.
And so what do I think will happen? First of all, what I hope doesn’t happen is that this becomes prime-time entertainment and a circular firing squad. I’m hoping this will be a substantive forum that enables candidates in both tiers to display their ability to connect with the American people.
Everyone’s focused on the #1 seed in this tournament, Donald Trump. He’s certainly surprised — and in some ways, embarrassed — the established political pundits. However, there comes a time when you must step it up and evidence the ability to be a statesman and a leader. That means the ability to present a vision, solutions — not slick sounding stats, but a way forward the American people can understand. My assessment is that a governor does have an advantage in this debate for having displayed executive decision making in the political arena. And a sitting or more recent governor can point to achievements that are quantifiable. Then again, they also have a record which can be scrutinized.
There are three first-term U.S. senators, and their challenge is to clearly delineate how they won’t be another first-term senator disaster as we currently have occupying the White House. Then, there are the outsiders, those who’ve not been in the political arena.
And here’s where there could just be a surprise in this first debate. Dr. Ben Carson will have to fight to get attention on the prime-time stage. He must inject himself and evidence that he can parlay his medical experience into being a president — which is not as easy a task as some may think. His soft-spoken nature will have to be set aside somewhat, because he must get into the conversation and not allow the others to dismiss him.
In the second-tier debate, I’d advise folks be on the lookout for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. If you watched her speech at the Reagan Library, you saw someone very sharp and to the point — a skilled communicator who can articulate much in a concise manner and is not going to be easily dismissed.
There will be someone in the second-tier debate who’ll have a breakout moment. I believe that Mrs. Fiorina just may be that person.
In the prime-time debate, it’ll be about whether candidates seek to wolf-pack Donald Trump. That would be a terrible tactic, because it would only serve to be the Friday morning story. The person who will win the prime-time debate will be the one who understands the military maneuver called the “turning movement.” The turning movement is an offensive tactic that doesn’t attack an enemy position at its strength. It attacks another position, or terrain, and draws the enemy out of its position, effectively “turning” them towards you, and seizing the initiative away. The candidate tonight who best understands and utilizes the “turning movement” will be the successful one in the prime-time debate. He must show the adept skill of taking whatever’s presented, turning it into his strength and forcing the other candidates to debate on his issue and terms.
That must be done without fanfare, with a quiet confidence and ability to dominate. And the objective must be to not debate the other candidates, but rather debate the persons who aren’t there: the current liberal progressive president and the liberal progressive who wants to be the next president. If the moderators attempt to draw one into the circular firing squad, the retort should be, “Let’s discuss the current failing policy and a better solution for America.”
What am I looking for this evening? Simple, a commander-in-chief, a leader who can replace the abject display of weakness and cowardice shown Wednesday during President Obama’s speech at American University. The person who represents the antithesis of Obama’s lack of American strength, resolve, exceptionalism and purpose will win the debate. The person who represents the antithesis of Hillary Clinton’s untrustworthiness — someone who can inspire and make the American people believe — will win the debate. The person who can make a clear delineation between the opportunity society and the Democrat party’s dependency society — which currently shows little daylight between socialist philosophy — he will win the debate.
If this evening devolves into a wild mudslinging bit of reality TV entertainment, folks may laugh and pass the popcorn — but deep inside, they’ll know America’s in trouble.
The entire West family will be watching. This is about the future of our daughters. I hope that as each of these men and woman take the stage today, they’ll not be thinking about Donald Trump or themselves. That they will be thinking about all our children and grandchildren who’ll be watching with us. This is not just about running to be President of the United States. This is about being the person to restore this constitutional republic. The person who can communicate that vision will win the debate.