Who will Win the First Debate?
Seventeen Republican candidates for president... Only 10 will get to be in Thursday's big debate.... One will emerge the winner.... (Maybe.)
Topping the tier is, of course; Donald "Teflon" Trump. Despite his fiery rhetoric, maybe even because of it, he's kicking butt in the polls. He's downplaying his chances, "these other guys debate all day"; but the still-double stuffed debate plays to his strengths. He can continue delivering soundbites without much time left for any "'splainin' to do."
Jeb Bush has to be a "big brother" figure, and not just to George W. As a relative moderate, he might just pull a McCain-Romney and sneak past a field otherwise crowded with ultra-righties. He has to resist the urge to go negative against Trump. Even though going negative can be effective- it often brings down the mudslinger along with the mud slingee.
Scott Walker seems to teeter between being a top tier candidate and an error-prone novice. He has the most to gain if he can deliver a solid performance- but he also has the most to lose..
The next batch doesn't seem likely to make much of an impact, except later as possible vp candidates; Cruz and Rubio for that hotly contested Hispanic demographic; Huckabee to hold the evangelicals and the South (if a "moderate" is nominated) or Ben Carson; the only black candidate currently running. Rand Paul seemed to be a hot ticket for a while, especially in New Hampshire but seems to have fizzled of late. He could have potential to break from the mid-level pack with his unconventional-for-a-Republican views on marijuana legalization and avoiding foreign wars.
All of the above have likely secured a ticket to the debate. Two of the next three will probably round out the ten. Chris Christie's "tell it like it is" shtick has been largely usurped by Trump. Rick Perry could provide some suspense to see if he can avoid the gaffes that shot down his last campaign . John Kasich could be embarrassed by being shut out of the debate being held in his home state. He's unlikely to beat Bush for the "moderate" vote, but as governor of a big swing state, he might be vp material..
In the why are they even bothering category are Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore Fiorina might have some cred as vp candidate as the not-Hillary/not Democrat woman.