With the first Republican presidential debate scheduled for August 6, the great sorting is about to begin. The Republican National Committee set the schedule at 12 sanctioned debates (as opposed to 27 various forums for 2012), leaving it to the media sponsors to determine how many candidates to invite. The first sponsor, Fox News, will thankfully take a step toward cutting the mushrooming field in half, inviting the top 10 based on national polling as of early August. CNN will follow in September.
Were the cut-off today, Real Clear Politics average of major polls would look like:
Jeb Bush - 15.4%
Scott Walker - 13.2%
Marco Rubio - 13.2%
Rand Paul - 9.2%
Mike Huckabee - 8.6%
Ted Cruz - 8.6%
Dr. Ben Carson - 7.8%
Chris Cristie - 5.4%
Rick Perry - 2.4%
Rick Santorum - 2.3%
Others above 1% - John Kasich; Carly Fiorina; Bobby Jindal; Lindsey Graham.
Other notional candidates - George Pataki; Donald Trump; Peter King; Rick Snyder; "None of the Above".
A few observations about this unwieldy field:
- Each election cycle is a bit different. With a broad field, early televised debates, and the use of national polling to determine who gets to participate, it is important for any wannabe to be driving national name recognition between now and August. For better or worse, only a few of the people polled will know much of anything about most of the candidates who they will be indirectly selecting.
- The top tier - Bush, Walker, Rubio - will probably adhere to Reagan's "Eleventh Commandment" - "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican". Rand Paul takes the most joy in violating the rule (complaining about the state of the Republican brand and George W Bush's creation of ISIS), and others in the middle tier or lower will undoubtedly give the New York Times fodder as they vie for attention.
- There are "optics" reasons for the RNC to want an African-American (Carson), an Hispanic-American (Cruz; Rubio), an Asian-American (Jindal), and a woman (Fiorina) on the stage. Carson, Cruz, and Rubio will apparently make it; Jindal apparently won't. Fiorina does not qualify at the moment.
Back in The Day when Heisman Trophy-winning and academically-challenged running back Joe Bellino played for Navy, there was an understanding (at least at the other service academies) that there was a "Bellino Curve" - if you got a grade above Joe's you would pass any course. For Republicans facing the inevitable Hillary, there needs to be a "Fiorina Curve".
At the moment Fiorina is below the water line, but she has recently received very positive reviews for appearances in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina where she has focused on the shortcomings of Hillary - her lack of accomplishments; the corruption of the Clinton Foundation; the illegal e-mail system; the disastrous Obama/Clinton Middle East policy; the fact that women on her Senate staff were paid 72% of what men were paid. Fiorina is not a new Sarah Palin or Michele Bachman; she is a Newt Gingrich, a talented speaker focused not on the opponent of the past, Barack Obama, but on the opponent of the future, Hillary Clinton.
This week's "special" is a thoughtful article by Michael Barone of Rasmussen which puts today's war casualties in the context of World War I.
bill bowen - 5/29/15