In theory, it shouldn’t be too difficult to organize a debate for the Republicans’ 2016 field of presidential candidates. Sure, there are challenges associated with the unprecedented number of GOP White House hopefuls, but networks and party officials should be able to work something out.
And with two months remaining before the first debate, Fox News thought it had come up with a sensible plan: one debate featuring 10 candidates, as dictated by national polling. No muss, no fuss.
Except it’s not working at all. Many of the candidates – including some who are likely to participate – hate the plan and have raised fair concerns about the value of national polling. Making matters worse, Fox has been less than forthcoming with specific details about how it intends to crunch the numbers and determine debate eligibility.
Today, as msnbc’s Aliyah Frumin reported, Fox’s plan has even lost the support of leading New Hampshire Republicans.
A group of high-profile New Hampshire GOPers wrote an open letter to Fox News and the Republican National Committee on Wednesday asking them to make their upcoming Aug. 6 presidential debate more inclusive – and not restrict the forum to just 10 members of the massive, emerging field.The letter, addressed to RNC chairman Reince Priebus and Fox News president Roger Ailes notes that New Hampshire, as the first-in-the-nation primary state, plays an important role in helping to select the presidential nominee…. Those who signed the letter note the logistical challenges of dealing with so many candidates but argue the Fox News rules are “unnecessarily narrow and risk eliminating potentially viable candidates based on unreliable polling” It adds that the margin of error between the 10th candidate and those who don’t qualify will likely be statistically insignificant.
Among the GOP officials signing the letter are two former governors, and leaders from the state legislature.
They also offered an alternative approach.
As Bloomberg Politics noted, the New Hampshire Republicans recommend two separate debates – either on the same night or on consecutive nights – each with half of the field. Participation in each would be the result of random selections.
There’s no indication that Fox News officials are considering – or are even open to the possibility of – changes to the existing plan, but it seems pretty obvious that there’s mounting pressure to do something different.
And that’s probably a good thing. The idea that the network would be in a position to effectively eliminate a variety of credible candidates from contention, simply on the basis of a dubious standard with little predictive value, is highly problematic.
There’s still time for Fox to change direction. Will it?
Look for more on this on tonight’s show.