Tonight we’ll have the next debate between the candidates for the Republican nomination, and the plot thickens. Donald Trump has to make a strategic choice. He can go after Ben Carson, who now has the lead in most national polls, and try and regain his number one position. In Trump’s own words, there is plenty of subject matter for an attack on Carson. The good doctor has become a certifiable source of nonsense with statements about Obamacare, the Holocaust and the Egyptian pyramids. Additionally, he embellished his resume with stories about attacking his mother with a hammer and a classmate with a knife that nobody can verify, a story about having been offered a non-existent scholarship to West Point by General Westmoreland that obviously turned out to be untrue, and a story about a class he took at Yale of which there is no record. And finally, Carson belongs to a religious sect, the Seventh-day Adventists, of which the members take the Bible literally and believe that sooner or later they will be imprisoned by the US Government for celebrating the Sabbath on Saturday. Trump must be licking his chops.
Yet there are two dangers for Trump in attacking Carson. First, just like Trump appears to be invulnerable when he’s called out on his racist statements about Mexican immigrants, his commercial xenophobia with regards to the Chinese, and his existential misogyny, so is Carson invulnerable for most of the verbal stingers Trump can launch at him. Carson’s segment of the GOP electorate is just as crazy as if not crazier than Carson, and considers every bizarre statement with a less than shaky biblical foundation a badge of honor for their candidate. Second, if Trump were to succeed in taking Carson down he would create a lot of room for another candidate who in the end might be more of a threat to him, like Marco Rubio, who is not a complete religious fruitcake but has reactionary positions on abortion and gay marriage that would be appealing to Carson’s clodhopping constituency. So one of the things to look for tonight is if Trump will be able to control himself and leave Carson mostly alone, instead going after Rubio or his favorite punching bag, Jeb Bush, just to stay in shape.
Rubio’s casualness in using a Republican Party credit card for personal expenses and his tardiness in paying his bills make an obvious target for Trump, who will use his business acumen to declare the Senator unfit to be in charge of the nation’s finances. And if the rumors are true, Jeb! is planning to attack Rubio on his abortion stance, which would create the unique spectacle of one GOP candidate blaming another for being too conservative.
Of course it depends on the moderators how many personal attacks can be squeezed into two hours of television, and Fox Business Channel has announced that it wants the candidates to stay on the topics they are presented with. However, this edition of the clowncar has demonstrated on more than one occasion that it can go off the rails anytime and that no moderator can stop it.
In the meantime all is quiet on the Democratic debate front. Last Friday the candidates were interviewed separately in an MSNBC forum of which the purpose totally escaped me, except that I got to like Martin O’Malley. But I once gave money to John Edwards, so I have to be cautious.