It won't be Lincoln and Douglas, and in fact it won't even meet most common definitions of a debate, but tonight will be the first collective appearance of the ten most popular GOP candidates who will take turns walking out their talking points in response to fairly softball questions from a panel of people posing as journalists. There may be a few surprises in the process, though that seems unlikely as the responders and the questioners will all be focused on appearing intelligent and not making mistakes. Chances are likely that the entire process will be sanitized and controlled to the point that no one's popularity needles move very much.
(Oh, if only there was a reality TV star in the mix to stir things up a bit!)
A train wreck on stage would be fun and make the whole evening infinitely more interesting. And Republicans, being Republicans, always seem poised to run off of the rails.
The ten candidates who made the cut to be in tonight's show, apparently based on the most up-to-the-minute poll results, are: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. The Old Boys Club will be entirely represented by Old Boys because the only announced female candidate, failed Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, did not make the cut. Imagine that. It's one thing to say that as a party you are pro-women, but quite another to give up a coveted debate spot to one of them.
In addition to Fiorina, the other six who were slighted by the process include Rick Perry, Little Ricky Santorum - who is literally 'frothing' over the injustice, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore.
One of the more interesting political assaults in the week leading up to this first "debate" has come from Democrat Hillary Clinton who seems to be playing the Claire McCaskill game of choose-your-own-opponent. Clinton has singled out Jeb Bush for a series of withering attacks in the last few days. And Jeb, who is much like his awkward older brother, has committed a series of gaffes that just beg to be exploited. He has recently postulated, for instance, that our government may be spending too much money on women's health care. Nice talk from a man likely to lead a party that is vehemently not conducting a war on women.
So it will be an interesting evening. For my money, Donald Trump and Chris Christie will be the most likely to explode on stage, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker the most likely to forget themselves and give a Nazi hand salute, Rand Paul the most likely to light up a joint during a commercial break, and all ten are likely to invoke God at least once during their opening and closing remarks. All will be opposed to abortions, unions, Obamacare, gay marriage, and the nuclear agreement with Iran.
But beyond that, who knows? There may be room for a surprise or two - or a fistfight! One can only hope!