More than two years ago, Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus set about reforming the debating process for the GOP nomination to prevent a repeat of 2012’s 23 debates—which promoted party infighting and left its ultimate standard-bearer battered. Last night’s “Voters First” forum in New Hampshire is the clearest indication that Priebus has largely succeeded in that goal thus-far. The bloodless two-hour event featured two-rounds of questioning of the candidates, almost entirely geared to each candidates’ strengths and stump speeches. (Lindsey Graham got foreign policy questions, Rick Perry: immigration, John Kasich: budget, and so on…) Squeezing 14 candidates in such a small time-frame left the forum feeling like watching televised speed-dating, in which candidates practiced their well-honed pick-up lines. The most contentious questions came to Sen. Rand Paul over his foreign policy and domestic surveillance positions—not as softball as the rest, but beliefs he is well-practiced in defending. All in all, the forum was virtually indistinguishable from every other candidate cattle-call over the last 18 months, other than the fact it took speeches were usually given over two or three days and condensed them into two hours.
Thursday night will be different, not least because Donald Trump will be on stage. Fox New will make the final determinations for entry at 5 p.m. today, but the latest polling indicates that the roster of candidates filling the top 10 spots in national polling (and thus eligible for the debate) looks like this: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. The rest of the field will participate in an undercard forum a few hours before the 9 p.m. Tuesday main event.
Elsewhere in politics, President Obama will meet with American Jewish leaders Tuesday to defend his Iran nuclear deal. And Hillary Clinton will be in Denver participating in what her campaign calls a grassroots event.
Here are your must-reads:
Republicans Brace for Biggest Week Yet in Presidential Race
TIME’s Sam Frizell previews a pivotal week in the contest
Unhappy Voters Shake Up Presidential Race
Anti-establishment candidates find an eager following [Wall Street Journal]
Republican Effort to Strip Planned Parenthood Funding Stalls in Senate
Democrats block procedural motion in mostly partisan vote [Washington Post]
Move to Fight Obama’s Climate Plan Started Early
GOP has been plotting response for months [New York Times]
“I’ve heard this question before…” — Texas Gov. Rick Perry cutting off the moderator at the Voters First Forum when asked which government agencies he’d like to cut — a redo of his famous 2012 brain-freeze. Perry said he’d get rid of Obamacare, but this time didn’t list a single agency. Oops?
“Economic growth is not an end to itself…I think with economic growth comes a responsibility to help people who are living in the shadows. Our whole purpose is to give people a sense that the American Dream is still alive, and that we all can rise.” — Ohio Gov. John Kasich asked why he’s running took a thinly-veiled shot at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at the forum
Bits and Bites
Trump Counters Rivals With Reminders of Past Generosity: His [New York Times]
Parody Harvard Crimson Editorial Endorses Donald Trump [Boston Globe]