Ten Republican presidential hopefuls are now huddling with strategists, advisers, wardrobe consultants, vocal coaches, maiden aunts, Labrador Retrievers and anyone else who could give them an edge during the first official debate in a mere 24 hours, a prime-time broadcast on Fox News before a bodacious audience. Does this audience crave combat? Not necessarily. A new Bloomberg poll of GOP voters finds that 52 percent want the candidates to “play nice and avoid criticism,” while 39 percent want the rivals to go on the attack. There are other threats. The bane of on-camera gaffes, sweaty brows and assorted blunders is ever-present. And yet, it’s all so simple, some say.
“You’re not going to win over voters in a primary debate just by spouting facts and policy positions. The first debate is all about likability. First and foremost, Americans are unconsciously looking for who they feel they can trust,” Amy Showalter, a Cincinnati-based grass-roots campaign adviser, tells Inside the Beltway.
“We like and imbue trust upon people who are similar to us — who share our values, attitudes, morality and even our appearance. That’s why candidates are quick to share their biography that emphasizes experiences and values that they have in common with their audiences, and why those without a compelling biography are harder to relate to,” she continues.
There’s some trickier stuff as well.
“Studies show that people like to root for who they view to be the underdog in the race — those they believe to have more grit, more heart and more persistence than the rest. Whomever can position themselves as relatable, demonstrate morality, and highlight their past hardships in an authentic way, will win over the hearts of the American public,” Ms. Showalter concludes.
GOP FORUM: THE REVIEWS ARE IN
When 14 Republican hopefuls managed to weigh in on the world Monday night during the independent C-SPAN candidate forum, the reviewers were lying in wait, for better or worse. A sampling of the headlines from the past 24 hours:
“Everyone made a nice first impression at the big GOP speed-dating session” (National Review), “Republican bosses show muscle at bloodless presidential forum” (TIME), “C-SPAN’s GOP forum: simple, straightforward and informative” (Baltimore Sun), “Uneven performances in Trump-less Republican forum” (New York Times), “Trump-free forum provides rehearsal for GOP contenders” (The Hill), “At N.H. Forum, Respite From Trump (RealClearPolitics), “First Republican presidential forum was dull and bizarre, naturally” (Jezebel), “C-Span forum ‘outfoxes’ official GOP debate” (USA Today), “Backstage, the atmosphere was upbeat” (The Union Leader).
The House Homeland Security Committee released its monthly “Terror Threat Snapshot” on Tuesday, noting in their report, “There have been more U.S.-based jihadist terror cases in 2015 than in any full year since 9/11, and the total number of cases has increased three-fold increase in just five years — from 38 in July 2010 to 122 today.”
The grim assessment also said that ISIS now has a direct presence, affiliates, or groups pledging support in at least 18 countries or territories; controls a dozen cities and town in Iraq and 10 more in Syria as of mid-July. ISIS can now “field nearly 30,000 foot soldiers, including Americans and thousands of other Westerners,” the committee said.
“Terror struck the heartland in Chattanooga last month, a sobering reminder that a new generation of extremists is targeting our city streets,” says Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and committee chairman.
“We can’t stop what we can’t see, and with terror going viral — spreading online and across borders — I am worried more fanatics will go undetected until it’s too late. We’ve got to do more to take the fight to the enemy overseas at its source, otherwise we’re going to see the threat picture here at home steadily worsen,” the lawmaker concludes.
DIAL ONE FOR DONALD
“Hi this is Donald Trump and I’m running for the presidency of the United States of America. With your help and support, together, we can make America truly great again. Visit me on Twitter at @realdonaldtrump and check out my campaign website at www.donaldtrump.com. Hope to see you on the campaign trail. We’re going to do it.”
— Donald Trump‘s new phone message after his personal phone number was revealed by Gawker. “Thank you @gawker! Call me on my cellphone 917.756.8000 and listen to my campaign message,” Mr. Trump tweeted Tuesday.
FOR THE LEXICON
— Increasing buzz about a White House run by Vice President Joseph R. Biden; from National Journal correspondents Sarah Mimms and Alex Brown.
THE CONSERVATIVE NUANCE
It’s an online poll of over 13,000 readers of PJ Media’s Instapundit — a smart, canny news aggregation site founded by Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and “Instapundit” columnist. The goal was to determine who his conservative readers favored in the GOP presidential lineup. The answer: Gov. Scott Walker, with a very healthy 40 percent of the vote, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz with 21 percent and Carly Fiorina with 16 percent.
Mr. Reynolds will repeat the poll following the first official Republican debate on Thursday.
There’s much nuance, even among conservatives. A recent Gallup poll queried “very conservative” respondents to find that their favorite was Sen. Marco Rubio. Mr. Walker was fourth.
“We need a president that will protect that right, and it begins by having an attorney general that will defend them in court, and by appointing people to the Supreme Court that understand these deeply embedded constitutional principles of the right to exercise your faith, not simply to hold your faith privately, but to exercise it in every aspect of your life. So if I’m president, we are going to have Supreme Court justices that we appoint, that will defend that liberty. We are going to have an attorney general and a Justice Department that will protect all Americans from discrimination — including Americans of faith, who have designed their lives around the teachings of their faith.”
— Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, in a speech before the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday.
POLL DU JOUR
• 50 percent of Americans say the federal government “should do more”; 46 percent say the government “does too many things.”
• 44 percent offer a positive review of President Obama; 38 percent approve of the Democratic Party, 26 percent approve of the Republican Party.
• 39 percent say it would be “better for the country” if a Republican were elected president; 37 percent say it would be better for a Democrat to be elected, 9 percent say it makes no difference, 7 percent would prefer a third party.
• 39 percent will wait to vote until the general election in November, 2016; 30 percent will vote in the Republican primary, 30 percent will vote in the Democrat primary
• 36 percent are “pessimistic and worried” about the remainder of Mr. Obama’s term of office; 24 percent are “satisfied and hopeful,” 20 percent “optimistic and confident,” 19 percent “uncertain and wondering.”
Source: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted July 26-30.
• Finger-pointing, flag waving to firstname.lastname@example.org.