New Hampshire’s Voter First Forum on Monday evening, in which 14 Republicans seeking the GOP presidential nomination will participate, may be a harbinger of Thursday’s first Republican debate, according to The Washington Post
Though the forum is different — candidates will each have about five minutes to answer questions individually — it could provide viewers a glimpse of what’s to come. The 7 to 9 p.m. forum will be broadcast nationally by C-SPAN.
Saying he’s unlikely to get the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper's endorsement, GOP front-runner Donald Trump has declined to participate, according to the Post, though that probably won’t keep the others from mentioning him.
What will be of notable interest, according to the newspaper, is "who cozies up to him … who keeps their distance … and who ignores him altogether."
The answers to these questions will provide some clues about how candidates plan to approach him come Thursday.
"There are risks (you may well end up in a nasty public back-and-forth with him) and upsides (you may get more earned media attention in the campaign as a result) to both ignoring and engaging Trump."
The Union Leader, The Charleston Post and Courier, and The Cedar Rapids Gazette formed the forum after a host of Republican complaints in those early voting states about Fox News' criteria for participation in Thursday's Republican presidential debate — the first — in Cleveland.
"By limiting participation in the first debate to 10 candidates, voters are being deprived the opportunity to hear from the others who may not have unlimited funds or celebrity status," said Wayne Lesperance, professor of political science at New England College. "The forum levels the playing field and gives voters the chance to hear from all of the declared candidates who wish to participate."
Of tantamount concern to Granite State voters is Fox’s criteria limiting participation to candidates who average in the top 10 in national polls in the days leading up to the debate, according to Lesperance.
"That approach is an assault on New Hampshire's First in the Nation Primary because it forces campaigns to seek national attention instead of focusing on early primary and caucus states," he said. "The forum refocuses attention on New Hampshire and represents cooperation across media partners to affirm the Granite State's special role in the nomination process."
In addition to Trump, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (his campaign did not respond) and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (he missed the cutoff deadline) won’t be participating, the Union Leader reports.
Those slated to take part are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Because of Monday’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood, some of the candidates will be participating remotely instead of in person.
Political observers will also be watching to see who goes on the attack and who stays in their corner.
"While some hopefuls have remained studiously committed to their own messages, others have not been shy about throwing verbal punches," according to Post political writer Sean Sullivan. "Any direct or indirect criticism and responses will receive a lot of attention coming out of the event.
"The question is who, if anyone, wants to go on offense at this very early stage of the race."
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