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The value of the debates is … debatable

The value of the debates is … debatable

In 2016, the Republican field of presidential wannabes was so large that they had a two-level debate system.  The major candidates based on polling numbers were on the center stage.  Those coming in with lower numbers were in a separate debate – which I referred to as the “kiddie pool” debate.  It was an awful way for the GOP to present its candidates, but the Republican National Committee has never been good at planning debates. 

This year is no exception.  While they managed to get all the credible candidates on the stage at one time, the formats, moderating, selection of panelists and questioning were awful.

Now that the final official debate of the season is over – although there may be some local debates — we can safely say that they were largely non-events more than forums to educate, impress or sway voters.  After every debate, you were left with the feeling “is that all there is?” 

The debates reminded me of the yellow flag in an auto race when all the cars idle around the course without changing position.  In terms of polling numbers, there was not a lot of change.  There were no breakaways from the dog pack pursuing the fox.  The problem was that the fox was nowhere in sight.

The only hard news to come out of the debates was that the challengers to the absent Donald Trump jockeyed for position vis-a-vis another.  Over the course of the campaign, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis lost almost half of his initial support.  Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley picked up a few points.  Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the squeaky wheel making the most noise but did not move up or down much.  Vivek Ramaswamy continued his role as the bad boy who needs to be sent home – and he probably will be.  All the other Trump original challengers broke camp and did go home.

In my judgment, the winner in the debate was Haley … again.  Despite the fact that America has never had a woman President, she came across as the most presidential – the most informed and the most able.   She is a real threat to DeSantis’s distant second place, if not yet to Trump.  I also believe that she is the only candidate on the stage who would have any chance – slim as it may be — to overtake Trump.  She is the only candidate on the stage who has momentum – little as it may be.

There is no reason for Christie or Ramaswamy to remain in the race.  If Christie were really intent on seeing Trump fall short of the Republican presidential nomination, he would get out of the race and endorse either Haley or DeSantis – and I think Haley would be the wise choice.  I also believe that Haley would be the strongest candidate to beat President Biden.

In terms of interesting moments, there were several … a couple … okay, at least one.  That was when Christie slapped down Ramaswamy for his childish ad hominem attacks on Haley.  It was a moment of chivalry.  It made Christie look good and Ramaswamy look very bad – but the big beneficiary was Haley.  Christie’s praise of Haley almost had a ring of an endorsement.

Finally, I thought the moderators’ questions were awful.  But they always seem to be awful.  I think that is because they are media folks.  When I assembled debates, I preferred to have stakeholders on the panel – civic leaders, business types or union officials.  They ask much better questions.  They cover the issues while journalists are only interested in political games and gotcha questions.

It is hard to imagine anyone overtaking Trump, but this is politics, and anything can happen.  But in terms of the latest debate, nothing much happened.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Darren

    4 Great Candidates, but would any of them survive what Trump has gone through?
    If they did anything different to not disrupt the status quo, then what good are they?
    It would be S O S – Same old Sh#T!

    • Tom

      Most of what Trump has gone through is of his own making. None of these candidates would have had four indictments and 91 charges against them. So the answer is yes, they would all have survived because none of them are as arrogant as Trump. Vivek comes close with his finger wagging which is very annoying. In some countries finger wagging is considered very offensive.

  2. Tom

    I agree that Christie and Rammy should leave the race, but they won’t. Christie may be looking at a shot of being the next AG. Christie was the only one with big balls to break away from Trump. The other’s still won’t. Maybe they are waiting until after their nomination.

    I will disagree on Haley with regard to Christie’s chivalrous moment. It made her look weak. She should have defended herself. She should have said, “Thanks Chris, but I got this!” And then proceeded to defend herself. She has a good record, very accomplished, UN and international experience, but she failed to show it in that moment. Makes me wonder how many other moments she will be weak?

    Haley’s stats say 51 to 35 in beating Biden. Trump is around 41 to 38. Much bigger margin for Haley beating Biden if you are a GOP fan, or an Independent or centrist Dem praying for a third choice. Again, its too early and nobody has declared their running mate which will be very important. I think even Frank Stetson might be able to support Haley, except for her abortion and transgender/bathroom stands. But this may be a small sacrifice to keep this country from going into the toilet of extremism.

  3. Tom

    Larry, another point I wanted to make was that I thought the most valuable parts of the debate was when candidates would say something we did not know or read about on of the other candidates.

    • Jim lucas

      The move to get SCOTUS to judge Trump guilty is just another form of voter suppression and fraud. It’s interesting that nobody said anything about charging trump until he announced last year to run for president again. It’s really comical how the left fears the man. Personally I think he did a good job but I’m not sure about voting for trump in the primary. But if he gets the nomination I will vote to reelect him. I do think that Haley or Desantis would beat Biden. Now Biden is getting Hillary involved with his campaign. lol. Even bill Clinton said during her 2016 run that her campaign couldn’t sale pussy on a troop train. Source is Fox News Frank. Just so you know. An old bag and a demented old man trying to run a presidential campaign? Seriously? Good. Both of them are going to be humiliated. If someone other than trump is nominated I hope they will take them on like they mean it. I’m calling on any that’s not committed to bow out now. The battle for our country is on. Let’s do it!!!!

  4. frank Stetson

    Jim: what voter suppression? What vote? What did Smith do except what Trump wanted to do? It was Trump’s appeal, Smith could follow the normal, longer, process, or jump shift Trump’s ultimate goal of getting to HIS SCOTUS. Why wait? I thought you were in a hurry to prove Trump innocent?

    It was Trump who waved the red flag when he attempted to thwart all coming indictments by announcing his run far, far earlier than most Presidential candidates. I think he was singing that Bowie song: Rock Star.

    “I could do with the money (you know that I could)
    I’m so wiped out with things as they are (you know that I could)
    I’d send my photograph to my honey
    And I’ll come on like a regular superstar……

    I could fall asleep at night as a rock and roll star
    I could fall in love all right as a rock and roll star”
    David Jones aka BOWIE

    Donate today. Let Trump sleep. He paid one expert $1M for a few weeks work. He needs your campaign contributions so you can pay his expenses, his lawyers, his experts, EJ Carroll, tax man, NYS, and so, so, many more mouths to feed. Feed the hungry, feed the beast.

    ” It’s really comical how the left fears the man.” Nope, not laughing yet. He’s a slippery one. But soon.

    Damn — good quote on Bill. Stoner journalist has the creds, my kind of Allentown to MD sort of guy and will forgive his St. Marys experience as he gradated from my alma with a bullshit degree and now is respected journalist and I have a bs journalism and I write this bullshit :>) It coulda been me, not. I lived just below St. Mary’s down the Catoctin Mountain ridge towards Harper’s Ferry below Braddock Heights for awhile. I love that ridge. While there is no fact check yet, it looks Kosher. Funny. Well, Bill probably lost bedroom privileges years ago and being right does not help. Of course he was talking about her campaign, not her personally. Funny though.

    Hillary has a place in the campaign, but she sure isn’t going to get him the voters he does not already have and she may turn off the ones on the fence. Looks like handling nitro to me so if they are not uber careful, lightning will strike as is her way. I probably would have passed or let her hold fundraisers behind the scenes. If she become a face of the campaign, won’t help, IMO,

    Got some ageism going for a guy supported a guy older than Hillary and only 4 years younger than Biden. Must be the botox and fake tan that you like.

    Frankly, they are all too old. from our side, Newsome is only 56 and Mayor Pete is a young 41. I really like Mayor Pete, smart, empathetic, plain speaking, religious, valedictorian, rhodes scholar, oxford, harvard, lieutenant uber in Afghanistan — this guy not only has all the boxes checked, much more than DeSantis and DeSantctimonious has a fuck of a lot of boxes checked. And his being gay will totally piss off many which, in this case of prudish assholes, I find will be a delicious desert for an earnest run.

    Enough of the 70’s and earlier, time to move on. I would like to see Mayor Pete get some more seasoning, enough to make us forget the Mayor part, and hiding behind Biden doing infrastructure is not doing it yet. He needs to step out more, while Newsome may need to throttle it back a bit. The DeSantis debate, even if I thought he won (and I didn’t watch so I don’t have an opinion), the idea was a loser. China was a boondoggle. Time to reign it in a bit and focus on CA.

    • Jim wampler

      And Biden is still retarded and Pete is still a cocksucker. And Hillary and kumala are both cackling bitches.

    • Tom

      A couple of points:

      1) I still think Trump overall is bad news for the country. You have a good point about him selecting cabinet members and folks for official positions that have his authoritarian mindset. What amazes me is that many polls have shown most of the electorate on both sides would like to ditch both candidates and get two new ones. But for some reason, these supposedly seasoned parties are not listening..

      2) I really do not care if Mayor Pete is gay when it comes to his personal life. But I do care if a gay president is representing me and the USA. I know you think he is overwhelmingly qualified – but the fact of the matter is that there are countries that we need relationships with that have anti-homosexuality laws, penalties, imprisonment, and some even kill them when they find them. His wonderful qualifications will not matter in these countries. These countries will not give him the time of day. Some may not even let him in! Many of what you are calling “assholes” tolerate homosexuality as long as it does not affect our lives. A homosexual president will affect our live here domestically where we will not hear the end from LGBTQ, as well as abroad where we will ultimately lose what little relationship we have with some of these countries. Sometimes I think your desire to show how open and wonderfully accepting we are as a nation (which is admirable) blinds you to the truth and consequences of other nations not being as open and not being as accepting as the USA. Such nations happen to be in the Middle East, in Asia, and in Eastern Europe – all places where our relations with those countries are already very rocky at best. I wish you would think a little more about the long range impacts of a homosexual representing our nation to these countries, and how this could cause problems down the road when we need allies for military strategic reasons. With a homosexual at the helm, they may very well not ally with us or let our military bunk on their soil.

      3) I agree that resorting to Hillary for campaign help is a very bad move for Biden. He seriously needs to use his remaining brain cells to rethink this one – even for fund raisers. With Hillary, there could be many surprises!

      4) I miss Bowie. He was great. And I did not care if he was bisexual or homosexual or A-sexual or what ever other kinds of sexuals there are. I just liked his music. Star Man was my favorite, album was one of his earlier ones named “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”. Very creative!

      • larry Horist

        Tom … I have often written that when two parties can potentially nominate candidates so repugnant to so many voters, something is very wrong. It is because the partisans in both parties love their guy, but cumulatively, the entire electorate dislikes them both. We had the same situation in 2016. In those cases, the least disliked will win.

        Re Mayor Pete … I put him in the same category as Ramaswami. A couple of political pipsqueaks. I would be surprised to see either of them getting anywhere close to the presidency — or even a nomination. They are great copy for the Fourth Estate, but not right for national leadership. And my opinion has nothing to do with Mayor Pete’s gayness.

        I agree. I see nothing in Hillary’s coming to Biden’s aid except desperation on his part and a chance to get back into the spotlight on her part. They are like two people in the middle of the ocean clinging to each other as lifesavers.