“I think this is a a dumb way to weed out the field.”
Navigating a large and dynamic primary field can be tense for even a top-tier candidate, but what about those who fall in the middle (or bottom) of the pack?
Those who haven’t yet risen to the top of the pool are facing extra pressure heading into an early debate qualification process that some say puts too much emphasis on celebrity and name recognition, and not enough on viability as a candidate.
Today Lindsey Graham lashed out on Fox News, and against Fox News, about the network’s plan to use national polling data to limit participation in debates. Watch:
Long story short? Graham isn’t happy—and he’s naming names:
“I think this is a a dumb way to weed out the field,” the South Carolina senator said Friday on Fox. “I don’t mind weeding out the field over time but a national poll tests celebrity. Big states have an advantage versus small states. People who’ve run before have an advantage over those who haven’t. It’s July, for god sakes. So, a national poll is a lousy way in my view to determine who should be on the stage and quite frankly I resent it.”
Graham, also faulting the Republican National Committee, which is sanctioning the debates, said the current debate format rewards higher name recognition and diminishes the importance of early primary states New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.
“It’s all about money,” he said. “And what you’re going to reward over time is the people with the most money and your’e destroying the early primary process and I think that’s bad for the Republican Party.”
(Bonus: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has also criticized Fox’s decision to limit participation. Unfortunately for her, she conveniently forgot that her own network has played a similar role in culling the democratic herd.)
Graham is right about national polls; he’s also right about money playing a huge part in who leads in those polls. That being said, we have a field of 17+ candidates, all demanding a podium. When Hemmer pressed Graham about an alternative solution, Graham hedged, saying he’d “find a way” to come up with a better system.
Fox, on the other hand, found a way. (Just not a way that benefits every candidate.)
Fox’s system, and RNC’s sanctioning of it, is of course a disappointing development for long-shot candidates who could quickly rise to “viable candidate” status given enough time in front of the camera. Fox is offering a pre-debate forum for candidates who don’t make the final cut for the debate, which is something, but will it be enough? Probably not.
Graham seems determined to protect the early primary process, but that process is already in a death spiral. The demise of the Iowa Straw Poll, and a rise in interest in states like Texas as opposed to New Hampshire, have led me to believe that, while the candidates’ expectations have remained stagnant, the process is evolving.
Unfortunately for candidates like Graham, even an “evolved” primary process may not be inclusive enough to include candidates desperately seeking a chance to outshine their more well-known opponents.DONATE
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