Thursday's first Republican presidential debate, set to be televised from Cleveland on Fox News, feels more like a prizefight than a discussion of political policy.
You waited for Mayweather/Pacquiao.
You'll never forget Leonard/Duran.
Now, get ready for "Trump/Bush/Walker/Rubio/Huckabee/Carson/Cruz/Paul/Probably Christie/Possibly Kasich/Potentially Perry/Almost Certainly Not SantorumJindalFiorina/NotJustNoButHellNoGrahamPatakiGilmore."
It feels like a Vegas championship bout because of the bluster of Donald Trump, the endless analysis and picks of the press, but even more so because of the pre-debate naming of the contestants two days before the fracas that's going to play like a weigh-in.
The debate is on Aug. 6. But we won't actually know who's brawling in the main event until Aug. 4, when the top 10 candidates, according to the average of five recent polls, are announced. I imagine political handlers having to separate Kasich and Perry if one edges the other for the last spot by a tenth of a point, and a back-alley bareknuckle exchange of views on tax policy breaking out before the two can be seperated.
FOX says there could be more than 10 candidates if the last few are tied. Even if they're not tied, the difference between the current 2.2 percent support of John Kasich (10th) and 2.0 percent support of Perry (11th) basically means that out of 1,000 Republicans, two more support Kasich than Perry, so this ain't an exact science. If the 10th place person catches fire and nails the nomination, we could end up with a different president than we otherwise would have had just because someone, just one person, tired of telemarketers offering timeshares, refused to pick up the phone.
The seven candidates who don't get into the main bout will debate on the same stage at 5 p.m. where the big boys will battle it out at 9 p.m. That could be truly savage, with the participants already furious they didn't make the big show looking to carve a name for themselves, like hockey enforcers who can't skate very fast but are beloved for their fighting abilities. I look for someone to break a chair over Jindal's head, and Santorum to tear off his sweater vest mid-speech.
The main event also bears a certain resemblance to skiing, where the highest-seeded contestants get to run on the freshest snow, or swimming, where the fastest prelim times earn you a quick middle lane. The highest polling contestants will get podiums in the middle of the stage (centered around downtown Trumptown) with the others fanning out in descending order of voter love.
I'm kind of hoping they find other ways to reward early support, too. Progressively quieter microphones, perhaps, for those who aren't getting much traction. Maybe really, really excessive makeup for those who just squeak in to the big debate.
Regardless, it's all very exciting, a Battle Royale to kick off the contest for leader of the free world. And it will provide great ratings for Fox.
So let's get ready to rumble. That's a deep, nuanced policy rumble, of course.