Something to watch for in both debates in Cleveland tonight: How often the 17 GOP presidential candidates actually disagree with each other. Even though they’ll be debating each other, more often than not they’ll not be ganging up on any of their opponents, but two Democrats not in the room — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
On many, many issues, all of these candidates are singing from the same chorus. Yes, there’s some slight differences on education, trade and immigration, but those differences are relatively few. If you’re a Democrat, prepare to be pissed off at the end of both of these debates.
Meanwhile, not to beat a dead horse, but will we see any life in Rand Paul tonight? The man dubbed less than a year ago by Time magazine as the Most Interesting Man in Politics has been invisible in this campaign, and arguably has been as hurt as much as anyone by Donald Trump’s rise. Not that they share the same voters necessarily, but just a few months ago Paul was coming in third in a lot of these polls, and was showing surprising strength in one-on-one matchups with presumptive Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton.
Though he was never in danger of not making it into the prime-time debate tonight, I would suggest Paul start going for broke and distinguishing himself like he had leading up to this campaign, when he went from an iconoclastic D.C. figure into an all too familiar (i.e., boring) one.
His cause wasn’t helped yesterday when the man running one of his super PACS, Jesse Benton, was indicted on charges that he bribed an Iowa state senator in 2011 to shift allegiances from Michele Bachmann to Paul’s father, Ron, then a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Benton is actually married into the Paul family. (He’s married to Rand’s niece.)
Rand is reported to still be standing with Benton, but it ain’t good news. And the fact that the Paul camp is accusing the Justice Department of being political because it comes on the eve of tonight’s debate is a bit laughable — as if there’s any fear that he’s going to be a contender for the nomination. He might have been a contender, but that possibility seems to have left the station months ago. Maybe he’ll do something tonight to bring his campaign back into focus. It’s not too late.
In other news..
Today Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward goes before the City Council to discuss the possibility of a civilian review board. Details here.
At Tuesday night’s Metropolitan Planning Organization on the controversial Tampa Bay Express project, only Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco voted in opposition.
Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and other Republicans have trashed the EPA’s Clean Power Plan announced on Monday. Despite the criticism, a PPP survey says that 66 percent of Floridians support the plan, with like margins in seven other swing-states.
Jeb Bush’s faux pas on the campaign trail has led some staffers at the DNC to have a little fun and mock his new online “swag store.”
And dig into it, nerds — The Florida Legislature has a live “base map” to begin working off of when they reconvene in Tallahassee next Monday for the latest special session, this one devoted to redrawing eight congressional districts, including the two main ones in the Tampa Bay area.