Luck be a lady tonight! Yes, just as Powerball Mania is sweeping the nation, the Republican frontrunners, midcarders, and childish failures are hoping to hit all the magic numbers in tonight’s debate. I can only assume that the electric lottery spirit is enrapturing candidates, as even I, a veteran reporter, have given in.
That’s right, I’ve gone and pawned my vintage Apple-I autographed by centrist hero John Anderson himself in order to play the numbers. I know the odds are low, but what are we if we don’t dream? Don’t worry! If I win the big one, I will not quit my day job! In fact, I’d probably have enough money to buy CAFE and put together a world-class team of political reporters, including my pals Ron Fournier, Frank Luntz, radio star Michael Smerconish, Chris Cillizza, Philip Bump, and Michael Barbaro. Each morning the Monsters of Muckraking would waltz into the office, light a few cigars, pour some brandy, and pull down the day’s biggest scoops like it was nothing. Then each day when the clock strikes 4, the Fact Friends would be off to happy hour. Then we’ll see who “can’t provide an acceptable atmosphere for a child.” I’ll have built one myself!
Anyway, here’s what the candidates need to do tonight, starting with the prime time event:
The Main Stage
Donald Trump – With the Iowa caucuses in 3 weeks, we finally have an answer to the question, “Can the Donald win?” The answer is Yes… but first, he has to show that he’s more than just “yuge!” viral moments, haha. Big flashy spectacles like doing the Drake dance on SNL and saying he’ll deport Jeb’s foreign-born wife may get Trump attention, but now he has to seal the deal by talking about the concrete policy proposals and budget numbers people crave hearing. When Republicans hear the Donald promising to deport all Muslims, including American citizens, their first thought is, “well, who’s going to pay for these armed deportation squads?” Without hard numbers to back them up, Trump’s “yuge” pogrom proposals are going to sound like pie-in-the-sky thinking to his conservative base.
fmr Gov. Jeb Bush – Word from Jeb’s camp is that this will be the debate where voters realize how childish his opponents have looked the dozens and dozens of times they’ve humiliated him on this stage. Yes, from the time Trump refused to apologize to Jeb’s wife, to the time Marco Rubio spit in Jeb’s hand in front of everyone, all the way to the time John Kasich asked to make a call on Jeb’s phone and just ran off with it, all of these bullies will be exposed as too immature and downright mean to be the Republican nominee. Bush’s strategy is centered on point-by-point rebuttals, the use of logic to prove he doesn’t deserve to be made fun of, and copious amounts of laughing and smiling to show that he’s not upset, he actually finds this amusing. Jeb’s high-priced team is banking on every single voter coming to their senses at this time and realizing that their candidate is a cool guy, actually. Will it pay off? Heck, Jeb’s feeling lucky!
Sen. Ted Cruz – A Canada-sized target is painted on Ted Cruz’s back. Allegations of his foreign birth are flying, and the cards may be down for the notoriously unlikable pelican-necked Texan. Yet with every crisis comes an opportunity. For Senator Cruz, it’s to appear human. Just like the Elephant Man, Cruz needs an “I’m A Human Being, Not A Monster” moment. Yes, Ted Cruz is hideous and unlikable, has a voice like a rusty foghorn, and sends children crying and running away from him in public, but he nonetheless deserves to be treated with dignity. Cruz needs to hold his head up high, bare his crooked proboscis and turdlike eyebrows, and beg the crowd in his grating, adenoidal whine that he has the right to run for President, just like everyone else.
Sen. Marco Rubio – All eyes are going to be on Rubio to answer Jeb’s latest $50 million attack ad calling the Florida Senator a hot-steppin’ flip-flopper.
Marco will likely be on the back foot — or should I say, back boot!! — for the entire debate, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that I cannot wait to see what he hits back with! Get your popcorn ready, folks. This is why they call the late primary season “prime time!”
Gov. John Kasich – While some fear for Kasich’s chances at this juncture because of how cold it is outside, the South Carolina location is perfect for the itinerant governor, who’s used to traveling south for the winter. The leather-faced Ohioan is well suited in these parts, where cops don’t check for out-of-state warrants, they leave you alone if you’re not doing anything illegal under that bridge, and there’s always a Christian family offering a hot homecooked meal and an outlet for your phone. Between his anger at Trump Casino’s misleading $.99 buffet policies and his covetousness for Marco Rubio’s shiny new boots, Kasich has been feuding with half the GOP field, so expect him to be extra-feisty tonight. Look for him to come out guns blazing against Ben Carson, either on stage or with one of his infamous fraudulent malpractice lawsuits.
Dr. Ben Carson – Just two months ago Dr. Carson was on top of the polls and dominating the cycle on the hot-button Pyramid/grain issue. Now he’s barely hanging on in Iowa and desperately needs what I like to call a “game change.” Dr. Hands should sprinkle in a little of that motivational speaking mojo he’s famous for. First break down the audience’s inhibitions through some motivational games like “Spot The Winner” and “Prince or Pauper Says.” Then make the sale that everyone in this country, even a pauper like John Kasich, can grow up to be an inspirationtrepreneur. If the blind neurosurgeon can inspire voters to dream big of success, he’ll draw a striking contrast to Trump’s real estate flipping how-to DVDs that frankly don’t work and are impossible to get taken off your Diner’s Card.
Gov. Chris Christie – The pugilistic New Jerseyan fought his way up the polls on the back of his experience as a federal prosecutor and Hugger-in-Chief in the days after 9/11. Christie’s tough talk and sports radio call-in candor have endeared him to security-conscious voters who look up to our prosecutors as incorruptible dispensers of justice. Obviously Christie is trying to draw a contrast with our corrupt family court judges who refuse to take into account evidence like a journalist/dad’s Polk Award nominations or listen to impassioned courtroom speeches citing admiralty law when assigning custody. If Christie brings more of his Law & Order flair tonight, expect every voter in the country to think, “Boy, if that guy were MY lawyer… hello, two unsupervised nights a week!”
Carly Fiorina – It’s no secret from her piercing glare and dominating aura, that Mrs Fiorina was demoted to the lower stage because she simply scared the daylights out of people. Pretty much everyone watching imagined the Californian luring them into a basement with a trail of gummis, fooling them into handcuffing themselves to the radiator, and going to town on their little piggie feet with Hot Wheels tracks. That may play in one-on-ones, but it just plain terrifies people on TV.
fmr Gov. Mike Huckabee – Well hyuck hyuck I dun spent less Thanksgivins at the darn kid’s table than I did at the RNC debate kid’s table? Is this where that there speaky talky jib jab I talk into and sound real loud is? Hyuck hyuck polls, that’s watcha put flags on, y’all hear?
fmr Sen. Rick Santorum – Santorum should probably talk about his achievements and policies.
The Loser Coward Idiot Circle
Sen. Rand Paul – Ahhahaahahahahahahaha! Gahahahahahahaha! That was the reaction when diaper-clad cretin Rand Paul was bumped from the main stage after his imbecilic whining in previous debates sent his poll numbers straight to 0. Refusing to acknowledge his complete lack of value as a human being, Rand has boycotted the undercard debate, displaying the brattiness and emotional irrationality that entitled white male libertarians are famous for. Now Rand has come crawling back on hands and knees begging the network to let him back in — as if anyone wants to tune in and see this moronic goblin standing on a milk crate giving a high-pitched tirade about how much he hates our veterans in the NSA. Newsflash, Rand: You aren’t entitled to a podium. You don’t even deserve the undercard debate. The only place for your brand of treasonous libertarian rancor is a dumpster full of broken-bottles.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet to @carl_diggler.