One of the most bizarre moments in recent American political history came in the Vice Presidential debate of 1992 when Ross Perot's running mate, Admiral James Stockdale, famously opened the night by asking "Why am I here?" It led to Saturday Night Live spoofs and late night comedian jokes--not to mention calling into question Perot's own judgement. But I would encourage any or all of the Republican presidential candidates to ask the same question during tonight's debate in Milwaukee. Why are we here?
I say that because there is absolutely no reason for this debate to be in Milwaukee at this time. The Wisconsin Primary isn't until April--five months away. And by that time, at least nine of the candidates taking the stage tonight won't even be in the race anymore--including one of the two current "frontrunners". Why get fired up about a bunch of guys--and a woman--you probably won't even have a chance to vote for next year? All of these debates should be taking place at the University of Iowa or Iowa State or Drake--where voters will acutally have a chance to support all but two or three of the candidates
And why Wisconsin at all? This is a state that hasn't voted Republican for President since 1984 (yes, Michael Dukakis won Wisconsin in 1988. Don't you feel real proud of yourself right now?). I know GOP Chairman Reince Priebus probably thought that he would be doing his buddy Scott Walker a favor by giving him a potential "home game" tonight (or maybe he thought Paul Ryan would have jumped in to save the party by this point) but as luck would have it, the Governor couldn't keep a tight enough budget to last 100-days in the race.
Maybe the Republican Party wants to use Milwaukee as an example of what happens when you elect Democrats and Liberals to power for 55 straight years. Perhaps the candidates are being briefed on the urban decay, the school system that parents don't care about, the loss of manufacturing and brewing jobs, the high crime and incarceration rates and the illegal drug use. Bonus points to any candidate who makes fun of Mayor Tom Barrett for thinking that all of those problems will go away if the city builds a streetcar line.
So get ready for Donald Trump to mention that his hotels are much nicer than any you are going to find in Milwaukee. Fake a laugh at Chris Christie pointing out "you don't get to be my size without loving cheese". And wonder why tonight's debate isn't being held at Circus World in Baraboo instead.