RNC Scheme to Block Candidates from Debate Should Be Repealed

GOP Debate (Kevork Djansezian / Getty)
Kevork Djansezian / Getty

When someone asks me to name the seven dwarves invariably I fall short. Let’s see, there’s Grumpy, Bashful, Sleepy, Happy, Dopey….Darn it, there are a couple more.

That’s kind of how it is when I try to actually write out a list of the 16, 17 (or is it 18?) legitimate Republican candidates running for the Republican nomination for president.

There’s billionaire business mogul and showman Donald Trump, of course, who has dominated news coverage for what has seemed like an eternity. But then there are former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

Hmmm, that’s only 14 – darned it. I just can’t remember them all.

Oh well, the good news is that if I watch cable television, or tune in for the upcoming early presidential debates in August and September, I will get to hear from and about all of these contenders, and can make an informed decision about who can best lead our party, and our nation.

And as a Californian Republican, I can feel comforted knowing my GOP brethren in the early-voting states will be able to make informed decisions, since my chance to vote isn’t until our “last-in-the-nation” June primary.

Except that Republican voters won’t be making informed decisions, because the media cannot be counted on to give much coverage at all to many of these qualified candidates (right now they can only be counted on to give Donald Trump virtually all of the coverage).

The leaders of the Republican National Committee, in a move championed by Chairman and insider Reince Preibus, have acceded to rules for the first debates that say that only the ten GOP contenders who are polling the best on national public opinion surveys can participate. This is in agreement with debate co-sponsors FoxNews and CNN. The others, to paraphrase the current frontrunner, are fired!

I don’t have to tell you that many of the most articulate and talented candidates in the field, including many sitting senators and current and former governors, are relatively unknown throughout the country. Unless you have vast sums of campaign money, or are being lavished with television coverage, you must focus your efforts in those early-voting states, and work to built momentum.

Well, a national survey is just that. So a promising candidate like Jindal who has been a rock-star governor for the GOP, who is now polling fourth in Iowa, behind Trump, Bush and Walker, is considered to be a long-shot to make the top ten nationally, and will likely be on the cutting-room floor for the debate.

Actually, long-time GOP strategist Curt Anderson, who is doing work for Jindal, says it best in an opinion piece he has featured in the Wall Street Journal today:

“The Republican Party should be looking forward instead of backward—-and seeking every opportunity to feature its roster of excellent candidates, rather than trying to find ways to constrict the field. The voters will do that, as is their prerogative. The simple truth is that competitive primaries usually make a party stronger, not weaker.

It’s also true that whenever the smart guys in Washington get together and try to shortcut the democratic process by imposing a candidate from the top down, it generally goes poorly. Whatever happened to the idea of freedom? Or democracy? Or robust argument? As a Republican, I wonder: When did we start fearing debates? And if we do fear debates, what business do we have trying to win elections?”

This system favors perennial candidates who have run before, or political dynasties, as these names will be better known nationally. If you are a new arrival on the national scene, you are at an extreme disadvantage.

This system also heavily benefits Beltway insiders who are the regulars on Fox News and other television outlets. I scratch my head trying to figure out how current and former governors from around the country will earn meaningful coverage.

It is also a bit much that this process may end up including candidates who are at, say, 3% in the polls, and exclude those at 2%–which is almost arbitrary.

The RNC’s scheme to limit participation in debates by establishing a national popularity contest a year before a general election is a flawed one, and should be immediately discarded. If there are too many serious candidates for one debate, then hold two rounds for each debate, randomly assigning the contenders to one or the other.

Thanks to a Google search I can tell you that my missing dwarves are Sneezy and Doc. And those candidates I couldn’t remember? They are former Governor George Pataki of New York, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Ben Carson.

But I probably won’t need to remember these three names or many of the others, since they may not be in the debates, and they won’t get meaningful news coverage. And through a process of our own making, Republicans are killing the candidacies of some of our best and brightest candidates, who not only are capable of defeating Hillary Clinton, but have the potential to be amazing leaders for our nation.

Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at jfleischman@breitbart.com.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.