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Stu Rothenberg: Criteria for GOP Debate Participants Unfair

By    |   Wednesday, 27 May 2015 12:47 PM

In deciding a system of who will be entitled to participate in the first few debates of the presidential season, Fox News and CNN have chosen an unfair and arbitrary system that will see some credible candidates excluded, said Stu Rothenberg.

The networks have decided to use polling to narrow down the field of eligible participants to 10, but the arrangement will potentially exclude candidates who have performed well in past primaries, as well as some current or former senators and governors, The Roll Call columnist pointed out in a blog.

"Fox News and CNN, which will broadcast the first two GOP presidential debates, have decided on a system for excluding candidates that could result in Donald Trump participating in those debates but current or former senators and governors being excluded," said Rothenberg.

"Nice going, guys."

Rothenberg said he agrees in principle that participation cannot extend to 16 candidates but the yardstick of polling is too arbitrary so early in the cycle.

He said a number of candidates are sure to be included: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, but with just five slots left, there are some important candidates who could find themselves excluded.

"The two networks could end up excluding the only woman in the Republican field (businesswoman Carly Fiorina), the only African-American in the field (Ben Carson) or the only other candidate of color in the race (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal). For a party that needs to remake its image, excluding candidates who are not white men is a novel strategy," he said.

"Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is the last Republican to have won the Iowa caucuses, but he could be excluded. The same goes for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won those caucuses in 2008."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Ohio Gov. John Kasich may also be excluded even though they hail from two important electoral states, he said.

"Any approach that limits the field so early in the race, at least five months before the first contest involving voters, seems inherently unfair. And using national polls to select participants in early debates seems odd when the first few actual tests of strength involve small, retail politics states such as Iowa and New Hampshire."

Rothenberg argues that the best approach would be to divide the field in half and randomly assign candidates to a group, using later debates to limit participation.

"After a couple of debates, the hosts of additional debates will have just cause to limit the number of debaters. But doing so in the first couple of debates is inherently unfair and could end up damaging the party's image. You'd think that that would be something the RNC would want to avoid," he concluded.

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In deciding a system of who will be entitled to participate in the first few debates of the presidential season, Fox News and CNN have chosen an unfair and arbitrary system that will see some credible candidates excluded, said Stu Rothenberg.
Stu Rothenberg, debates, republicans, caucuses, polls, participants
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2015-47-27
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 12:47 PM
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