What I’m looking for at tonight’s debate

The next Republican debate is tonight in Detroit at 8 p.m. This is going to be a good one. We are down to 4 candidates, Super Tuesday is behind us, Donald Trump remains the clear front-runner, and FoxNews is moderating.

Donald Trump — The Donald is a master negotiator. It has taken me a while to figure out some things about Trump. He’s like no other political candidate we’ve ever seen. The establishment still hasn’t figured him out because they still look at him through politician eyes and don’t see how he can possibly be winning. Some of the things Trump says seem outrageous. Again, he’s a negotiator, not a politician, so when he says he is going to build a thousand-mile wall along the southern border and make Mexico pay for it, he’s really staking out his starting position when he begins to negotiate as the 45th president. He very well may end up agreeing to less, but he’s telegraphing his starting point in future negotiations. Trump voters are consistently labeled as uneducated, and some probably are, but I look at Democrat voters as the true low-information voters. Give us Trump voters some credit. We may actually know and understand more than the genius political class.

Trump is going to get hit hard tonight and is going to have to hit back twice as hard. It’s going to be contentious from the outset, but this is the sort of environment in which Trump thrives. I would love to hear him go off on Hillary and the Democrats, but he’s going to have to spend his time tonight fighting off two aggressive challengers.

Ted Cruz — Senator Cruz is the solid second-place candidate. I like Ted Cruz. He’s the only genuine conservative in the race, and if Trump weren’t running, I’d be supporting Cruz. I’d love to see Senator Cruz sitting on the Supreme Court as Antonin Scalia’s replacement (1 of 9 instead of 1 of 535). But he’s running for president in 2016 so we have to deal with him as sort of an agitator to Trump. Donald Trump is the front-runner, so I fully expect Cruz to go after Trump. He has to. As much as I like Cruz, I expect him to make some unsubstantiated claims about Trump, such as wanting to erode our Second Amendment rights, wanting to expand ObamaCare, and maybe selling out Israel. Trump has given no indication that I am aware of that he wants to do any of these things, but it will be up to him to defend against these claims. Cruz will position himself as the only true conservative in the race, so Trump will have to position himself as the only one who can beat Hillary.

Marco Rubio — I used to like Senator Rubio. I began to have some misgivings when he came out in favor of amnesty. (He may call it something else, but it’s amnesty.) Rubio completely turned me off the last debate and then again the night of Super Tuesday with his snarky, infantile attitude toward Donald Trump. Marco Rubio is clearly in 3rd place and has only won 1 out of 15 states so far, so it’s natural that he has to criticize the front-runner. I understand this. It’s politics, and politics can be a nasty business. But doing things like making fun of Donald Trump’s hand size, which he actually did a few days ago, really aren’t helping his cause. Senator Rubio is the new estsblishment candidate with the end of Jeb Bush’s candidacy, so when Marco Rubio speaks, know that this is the establishment GOP talking. When he says Donald Trump must not be allowed to win the nomination, that’s the donor class talking. And when he resorts to pure snarkiness, just know he’s a reflection of what the GOP elites think about Donald Trump.

John Kasich — I have a lot of respect for John Kasich. He’s a good guy with a genuine heart. Governor Kasich at one time was a solid conservative. As a member of the 1994 Republican revolution, he was right up there with Newt Gingrich and John Boehner. But somewhere along the way he became a moderate, as Republicans tend to do after years in office. He is no longer a pure conservative. I’m sure he’s done some good things for Ohio. And he will tell us all about that tonight. His candidacy is not viable. He has no chance of winning the nomination. He is only in the race to try to win Ohio so he can position himself as a possible VP candidate who can deliver Ohio in the general election. So don’t expect him to attack anyone tonight or to be attacked. He may try to come across as the peacemaker when things start to get nasty, but his primary goal tonight is to appeal to GOP voters in Ohio.

Megyn Kelly — She will behave herself. There will be enough fireworks tonight without her trying to insert herself as a player. She knows this. I fully expect her to stay out of the way this time and not become part of the narrative.

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