DEBATE PREVIEW: Ted Cruz Can Thrill GOP Voters If He Starts Showing Deference to the Media

DEBATE PREVIEW: Ted Cruz Can Thrill GOP Voters If He Starts Showing Deference to the Media

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CAFE is pleased to welcome back Carl Diggler after his unscheduled two-week trip to the Middle East and Russia.

Howdy Digheads! It’s great to be back in the good-ol’-USA. I can’t talk a great deal about how my release was secured, but let me just say that fathers never forget their sons. I also can’t say a lot about my time in captivity, except to note that the Russians must be pretty foolhardy to think they could ever break a 30-year veteran of inside-the-Beltway reporting. After this whole ordeal I have even more respect for fellow-POW John McCain, something I never thought was even possible!

If my return to American soil wasn’t grand enough, there’s a debate on my first night back! Folks, the Dig isn’t an especially religious man, but sometimes you just gotta chalk things up to providence. Now enough with the welcome ceremony. It’s time to lay our cards on the table and hope for a “royal flush” of an evening for the last Republican debate of 2015, live in Las Vegas!

Main Card

Donald Trump

Donald trump gift guide
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While Trump dominated the recent cycle by declaring that all Muslims should be barred entry to the United States, the real thing that kept him up in the polls is the LOLs, not ethnic cleansing advocacy. Donald’s epic facial expressions, high-fives, and “yuge” bon-mots are the type of GIFable moments that turn a fringe candidate into a frontrunner. If Trump wants to surge past Ted Cruz and reclaim the top spot in Iowa, he has to put his best silly face on and remind everyone politics is not a cold, laughless place.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz
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This up-and-coming Texan is grappling with Donald Trump for frontrunner status, but to put away the competition he’s gonna need to turn down his disrespect to the media, as well as his elders in the Senate. Simply put, if you want voters to respect you, you gotta respect the institutions. GOP voters won’t support someone who thumbs his nose at beloved national icons like Mitch McConnell and Chuck Todd. If he can just show some deference it should be smooth sailing for the pelican-necked Tea Party favorite.

Ben Carson

ben carson
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Carson has seen his poll numbers fall by more than half after last month’s disastrous debate performance and his unending lies about his childhood, time at college, and ability to see. If the former neurosurgeon wants to make a comeback, he needs to go somewhere he’s never gone before. If Dr. Carson uses this debate to talk about his struggles as a blind politician and tearfully apologize to the American public for misleading them on his eyesight, he should recoup some of his recent losses. Otherwise, he will face the harsh grilling of genius journalist Wolf Blitzer, something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

John Kasich

john kasich
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Long thought of as a “second chance” city for drifters, deadbeats, no-accounts, and ne’er–do–wells, Vegas could be just the shot in the arm the lagging Ohio governor needs. But be warned: every sword has two edges. Kasich’s handlers need to keep the candidate away from credit advance booths and any tables with a $10 or more minimum bet, and also make sure the plucky itinerant doesn’t engage in one of his notorious “get rich quick” schemes.

Last debate Governor Kasich hit his stride going on the attack against Trump, conjuring images of Jimmy Stewart challenging a fatcat villain in classic films of old. He’ll need to double down on that Golden Age nostalgia and use the train-hopper quickness that’s gotten him this far in order to stay above water.

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio
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In the last four debate venues Rubio was forced to keep his strongest weapon holstered: his virility. In libertine Sin City, however, the Cuban-American upstart has a huge opportunity to finally open up about his rumored brood of illegitimate children, long an open secret in the chattering class. If Rubio decides to “go there,” I think this audience of degenerate gamblers, flim-flam men, four-flushers, and showgirls will be on their feet cheering the Senator’s impassioned anger at condoms.

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina
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Back when I was an intersectional feminist for a couple weeks, my girlfriend expected me to praise Carly’s feminine strength and accomplishment. Now that she’s left me, I can say what I really think about the former HP executive.

Although her poll numbers have cratered, Carly still has a chance to snatch the Radical Moderate primary vote. But first she needs to catch their eyes. The usual drab tones and conservative suits that Carly has grown accustomed to are simply not going to cut it in glamorous Las Vegas. If she’s serious at all about being the first female President she’ll have on her best evening dress and pearls in full display tonight.

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush
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I think the real Jeb Bush — the one who’s cool and with it in his classic Vines and off-the-cuff interviews about Supergirl head-turner Melissa Benoist — has the potential to make an appearance tonight. With any luck, the pure oxygen and debauched air of the surrounding casinos will loosen Jeb’s inhibitions and disabuse him of the idea that voters respect a man who unsuccessfully solicits apologies for his wife on TV. To harken back to our narrative of providence, it seems like a fine coincidence that this is the venue in which Jeb has to “lay all his cards on the table” so to speak! Things like this are why I live for politics.

Rand Paul

Rand Paul
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If we’re really lucky the Old Vegas ethos will return for just one night and the repulsive mole creature Rand will be shot and buried in the desert! Just a joke, but who wouldn’t be relieved by his absence? Nevada has a strong civil-libertarian bent, so look for Senator Paul’s libertarian ideas, such as his advocacy for a government-enforced blockade of Muslims, to get some murmur of a reaction from the Valium abusers and payday loan operators that count themselves amongst his Nevadan constituency.

Chris Christie

Chris Christie
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The Garden State Governor no doubt has his eyes on the smorgasbord of options that await him, and he should see this debate in the same way. Now that he’s been brought back to the main card after a single night at the kid’s table, Christie has nowhere to go but up. If I were on his campaign staff, I’d be advising him to take Trump’s “two of a kind” claim of seeing Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks and “double down” but with his own kind of 9/11 credentials. Voters already love Christie’s story of moping around Manhattan, offering sweaty, loud hugs to grieving victims. A bit of xenophobia a la mode may be all he needs.

Undercard

Mike Huckabee

The only advice I can offer Governor Huckabee is to avoid a Carrie-type scenario where he’s lured into a false sense of acceptance by the sexually promiscuous and indulgent locals and then humiliated with a bucket of pig’s blood due to his uptight religious demeanor.

Rick Santorum

Santorum should logically be on the main card, but the polls simply haven’t caught up to him after his rousing defense of father’s rights in the last debate. Though it may be “uncool” in Sin City, the Senator should keep going with his hearty defense of dads and their God-given right to see their kids, unsupervised.

Lindsey Graham

After assuredly millions of calls, email, letters, and death threats, the RNC has pulled the knife out of Graham’s muscular back, replete with its wing-like lats and mountainous trapeziuses. Now that he’s back on stage, all the former Air Force officer needs to do is continue his ruthless carpet bombing of Donald Trump that has almost singularly contributed to the billionaire’s dip in the polls. For the other men on the stage? Lindsey isn’t locked in there with you; you’re locked in there with him.

George Pataki

The behemoth New Yorker destroyed Bobby Jindal so badly in his last go around that he completely quit politics, but it’s not going to be so easy this time with the true boss of the debates Lindsey Graham back in town. Simply put, Pataki should show some deference if he’d like to be part of a Graham superticket of moderates.

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 carl@cafe.com or Tweet to @carl_diggler.