The Republicans will debate later today. The debate coach in me is happy even though it won't be a debate. Real debate involves delivering prepared cases, engaging in direct cross examination, and presenting concise rebuttals that sum up the key issues in the round. The event would more accurately be described as dueling extemporaneous speeches, but I digress.
Before the young'uns go into a debate, we usually go discuss the judges. In preliminary rounds there's only one judge. In semi-final or final rounds there are usually three. Many judges have paradigms that determine how the young'uns approach the round. If the panel is composed of judges with conflicting paradigms, the young'uns have some tough choices. The Republicans on the big stage tonight have a few million judges with some fairly set but conflicting paradigms.
That fact prompts a few questions.
Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio all seem to be fighting to get the establishment vote. Will Bush solidify his lead with this group or will one of the other cut into Bush's support? Will Kasich, Christie, or Rubio make a play for one of the other constituencies. For example, Rubio might try to wrest the tea party vote from Trump or prevent Ted Cruz from making inroads into that constituency.
Rand Paul seems to be the favorite among libertarian leaning Republicans. Will he make a play for the angry tea party folk that now seem to gravitate toward Donald Trump? For that matter will Trump try to allay some establishment fears or ensure that he heads off any efforts from Paul or, perhaps, Scott Walker to take some of those voters?
Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee seem to fighting for the social conservative vote. Will one of them emerge as a clear favorite of that constituency? Will Carson cede this group to Huckabee and go after the tea party vote reasoning that social conservatives will follow him if he can outlast Huckabee? The same questions might apply to Ted Cruz,
The groups admittedly overlap and many candidates have their feet in two camps, but at this stage of the campaign, the Republican candidates are not unlike high school debaters trying to determine how to win a round with a panel of judges who disagree about what constitutes a winner.