GOP DEBATE IN PERSPECTIVE
That in itself places these early debates into a prospective that of course no one is talking about since the media, yes even Fox News which hosted this debate is looking for sensational headlines in association with the 2012 campaign for President.
It is still far to early to rule out most candidates. Yes some like Rick Santorum, Jon Hunstman, Gary Johnson and Ron Paul whose true popularity is low and yes even questionable are likely even this early to not be around by the Primaries or soon after the Primaries start. Even the seemingly popular Ron Paul is not as, "popular," as polling makes him out to be.
Let's look at how the snap and straw polls work, both of which Paul has either won or finished in the top tier. Snap polls like those held immediately after the Fox debate, are extremely unscientific since they depend on who can get the most people to take part in the poll the quickest when the poll is open. Paul winning the Fox snap poll only proves that his supporters were quicker and in greater numbers to hit the poll right after the debate. A situation which happened after EVERY debate in 2008 with Paul winning almost all of them and Paul was one of the earliest to drop out in the Primaries.
Now the straw poll. This is a fee oriented poll which requires each person participating in the poll to pay a fee for participation and usually the campaign of the particular candidate pays the fee for their supporters. Which means that whichever candidate pays for the most supporters to participate will win the debate. As an example Ron Paul won the California straw poll with 82% of the vote. Historically Republicans do not win California and do not use a lot of money or assets in the State utilizing them in States that will actually help their campaign. This was the case for the straw poll where Paul forked a larger amount of money than almost all of the other candidate combined.
Now to these early debates. While entertaining and enjoyable for political junkies like myself to watch, this early in the campaign season debates mean little or nothing. In 2008 Rudy Giuliani was double digits ahead of the rest of the field at this point and was doing rather well in the early debates and as we all know he died a quick political death when the Primaries began and faded our before South Carolina which is the third held after the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire.
Every debate has focused on Rick Perry and Mitt Romney because early polling shows them as the supposed front runners. But again I remind each reader of the 2008 campaign when Giuliani was double digits ahead of everyone else in the field and was gone by February of the actual election year and John McCain whose campaign was struggling and thought to be over in September of 2007 won the nomination.
So even the so called second tier candidates still have a chance of breaking out and Romney and Perry who if you listen to most of the press coverage are the only, "real," candidates in the field. The media looks for sensational headlines and a Presidential election provides them better than almost anything else. The facts though are much different when it comes to the actual election.
Most voters don't even pay attention to candidates until a few weeks before any given election. By the time the Primaries start after the beginning of next year when voters are actually looking for a candidate to support, the polls and the coverage of any particular candidate including Perry and Romney could be totally different than it stands now. Again remember McCain was struggling with low single digit numbers very similar to those of Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain are showing now and he won the nomination.
For we political junkies these early debates give us a lot to talk and write about. The media has a great deal of fodder to fill the 24/7 news cycle. But in reality early debates are quickly forgotten and make almost no difference in the mind of the majority of voters who will not make up their mind until weeks and even days before they vote in their states Caucus or Primary. So enjoy the fun but don't count a candidates chicken before they hatch.