From listening to the talking heads in the mainstream media, one would think that the debate on Fox on August 6 is one of the most important, if not the most important, of the nine scheduled GOP candidates’ debates. Nothing could be further from the truth. This debate is not the be-all-and-end-all that they would have you think it is. Sure, this is an important debate, and there is not one Republican presidential candidate who would not want to make it on stage for that spectacle. But we need to put things into perspective here. This debate will occur almost six months before the first nominating contest will be held. Also keep in mind that it is still summer, when most voters have not yet begun to concentrate on the election. Even many of those who actually watch that early-August debate might change their minds several times over between now and February. It has been shown that many Iowa and New Hampshire voters don’t make their final decision on whom to vote for until just weeks, sometimes days, before they go to the polls.
Let’s think about the debate schedule. After the one in August, there will one in each of the last four months of this year. Then there will be one in late January, just before the Iowa caucuses, and three in February, one each before the New Hampshire primary, the Nevada caucuses, and the South Carolina primary, respectively. Also keep in mind that no decision has been made at this point to limit the participants in the last seven debates. I believe the two most important debates will be one in January and the one in early February, immediately before the New Hampshire primary. The five debates held before the end of year might well be forgotten by the time the holidays are over. The final two debates, those held after the conclusion of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, will come after many candidates have already dropped out of the race. The debate in January and the first debate in February will probably go a long way towards determining who gets eliminated and who stays in the race.