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A truly educational debate season

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Every candidate is welcome every week on my radio show, as their schedules permit. Last week, in order of appearance, came Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz. The best communications teams take advantage of the platform, as they do of all platforms available to them where they will receive a fair hearing. The combination of a very crowded field and the intense level of interest in the race rewards those candidates who answer all questions thrown at them and come back for more.

What explains the bunching of the field, with Donald Trump indisputably atop both the national polls and key early surveys in Iowa and New Hampshire? Two things.

First, there is vast displeasure with the national political elite, which includes all of the Manhattan-Beltway media elite and the D.C. GOP leadership.

The former is understood to have provided cover to President Obama and Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry over and around the general collapse of American prestige and power.

The illegal retention of classified material on a private server — see 18 U.S.C. Section 1924 — is understood by everyone to be just the latest (and most egregious) manifestation of “two rules” Clintonism — one set of rules for the Clintons and another for everyone else, including certified war heroes like General David Petraeus. This double standard is sinking Hillary before our eyes, but the mainstream media barely whisper about the source of her decline.

At the same time, many in the GOP are speaking in the key of 2012 and 2008, when the party and its standard bearers were understood by the party’s base to go too easy on Obama. Right now, the candidates hurling thunderbolts at Hillary are rising rapidly. Look for the entire field to amp up the direct critiques of Hillary as Jeb Bush did at the Reagan Library, the Iowa State Fair and on my show this week, just as has Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump for much longer.

I am asking questions at the Jake Tapper-moderated debate at the Reagan Library next month. My focus will be on the issues that do divide the field — whether to end the Senate’s filibuster rule, how to rebuild the military, whether to apply the federal drug laws vigorously in Colorado, Washington State and elsewhere. But also on the simple but crucial inquiry: Why are you better equipped than everyone else on this stage to beat Hillary Clinton?

The media have long used GOP debates to divide and weaken the GOP field. This time I want to see them used to educate a vast audience. They can learn which candidate is the most competent at communicating the specifics of Hillary’s catastrophic tenure at State, and her slippery code of ethics.

And each candidate will have a chance to show an understanding of and hopefully some emotional connection to the millions of Americans who, for whatever reason, have grown afraid of the future.


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