The Big Dog That Didn’t Bark in the Republican Debate

Pop quiz: what’s the biggest strategic decision facing the Republican Party over the next two months? If you answered “whether to shut down the federal government over Planned Parenthood, climate change regs, immigration, Obamacare, or spending,” you get a gold star on your daily report and an extra dessert at lunch!

Now: know how often the Republican candidates last night were asked about this subject? That’s right: zero, nada, zilch, zen zen.

It did come up in the “undercard” debate, when Bobby Jindal was informed of Carly Fiorina’s support for a shutdown over Planned Parenthood, and was offered the chance to vigorously agree. He went on to rather clumsily frame the scenario as Obama choosing to shut down the government to protect Planned Parenthood funding–you know, the same gambit Republicans attempted with little success during the 2013 shutdown–and then the subject was dropped.

I don’t believe in back-stage wire-pulling as much as a lot of people, but still: given Fox News’ very clear decision to become an adjunct to the GOP in vetting the candidates yesterday, I can imagine a phone call from Mitch McConnell to Roger Ailes happening at about 7:00 PM last night suggesting it would not be helpful if the would-be presidents got into a feeding frenzy over government shutdown threats. Indeed, since Donald Trump has outspokenly come out for a shutdown over Planned Parenthood, it would not have fit into the night’s overriding purpose of Trump-herding.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.