Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is one of the most quoted and influential politicians in Washington, D.C. from either party – a fixture on Sunday shows who’s known for crossing the aisle to enact major bipartisan deals while advocating for a hawkish foreign policy.
He’s also running for president. But that part hasn’t gone so well, and now Graham finds himself out in the cold for the Fox Business Network/Wall Street Journal debate on Tuesday after missing its minimum polling requirements.
Like the previous gatherings, the event features a main debate and a “kids table” debate for low polling candidates. Candidates needed to average 2.5% in public polls to make the big show and 1% to make the next tier. The big news coming out of the event was that New York Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee were both dropped to the lower tier, but the second debate’s exclusions were jarring as well. Graham isn’t the only candidate with a strong resume on paper who missed the cut – former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (who missed the last one) are out as well.
“It is ironic that the only veteran in the race is going to be denied a voice the day before Veterans Day,” Graham’s campaign manager, Christian Ferry, said in a statement. ”In the end, the biggest loser tonight is the American people and the Republican Presidential primary process that has been hijacked by news outlets.”
Pataki was equally upset. “Running for the most important leadership position in the world shouldn’t be reduced to the level of ‘American Idol’ or ‘Survivor,’” the ex-governor said in a statement.
In a packed 15-person primary where the polling front-runner is Dr. Ben Carson, an accomplished neurosurgeon with no elected experience, and second place is Donald Trump, a billionaire with no elected experience, some big names were bound to end up as asterisks. But Graham’s exclusion has earned him some sympathy from Republican leaders who believe he deserves a chance to speak – even if seemingly no voters are listening.
“Disagree with debate rules that prevent [Senator Graham’s] voice from being heard - his foreign policy message is an important one in particular,” Jeb Bush tweeted on Thursday.
Sen. Marco Rubio, while not going so far as to criticize the debate criteria, expressed his sympathy for Graham and Pataki on Fox News on Friday.
“These guys are out there, they’re flying around the country, they’re working as hard as anybody else is and it’s unfortunate,” he said.