As the Aug. 6 date for the first Republican presidential debate draws near, the expansive field of contenders is scrambling to solidify a spot on the stage.
Fox News will host the first debate, in Cleveland, and only the top 10 candidates will be invited to participate, according to The Hill
The top 10 will be chosen from an average of the five most recent national polls, as recognized by the network, leading up to Aug. 4. at 5 p.m., Politico
reports. Fox has not released the specific criteria it’s relying on to be a qualifying poll, but has said the polls must be conducted "by major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques."
Using RealClearPolitics' polls average from the four most recent, The Hill reports that four candidates are currently assured a podium next month:
- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, with a respective poll average of 17.3 percent
- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, 10. 5 percent
- Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, 9.5 percent
- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 9.3 percent
The next tier of candidates, which The Hill calls "in good shape," include:
- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 7.8 percent
- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 7.3 percent
- Billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, 6.5 percent
In its "just making the cut" category are:
- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 4 percent
- Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 3.8 percent
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 3.3 percent
"On the outside looking in," The Hill reports, are former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (2.3 percent); former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (2 percent); Ohio Gov. John Kasich (1.5 percent); Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (1.3 percent); South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (he barely registers nationally); and former New York Gov. George Pataki (he doesn’t register).
While Kasich could get a bounce in the polls following his scheduled July 21 announcement, the remainder of the bottom part of the field must figure out how to break into the top 10.
A cable ad buy could be helpful but is cost prohibitive for some, according to Politico, so the more likely path is media appearances.
"Most of the candidates will likely turn to earned media, looking to generate headlines to boost their name ID and standing on the ballot test," Politico reports. "That won’t be easy to do with Trump and the backlash against his comments on the stump sucking up so much of the oxygen; Trump was interviewed more on Fox last month than any other individual candidate."
A GOP presidential campaign aide who spoke to Politico on the condition of anonymity "to discuss strategy candidly," said that as a result of Trump commanding headlines — he caused an uproar when he said Mexicans who come to the U.S. illegally are rapists, drug-runners, and criminals — other candidates are going to have to figure out how to grab some of the spotlight.
"I wouldn’t be surprised if you see other candidates start throwing bigger bombs and becoming more incendiary to get some more attention," the candidate’s aide told the website.
Such a large field of candidates on a debate stage is an obstacle to in-depth discussion of the issues, Princeton political historian Julian Zelizer told USA Today
These are debates for the age of Twitter,'' he said. "It's not great for democracy, but it's good TV.''
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign chief, Patrick Millsaps, told the newspaper that watching candidates try to make a name for themselves is what makes them so entertaining.
"My favorite part of the campaign,'' he said.
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