Dear Fox News: Please Let All Serious Candidates Debate!

Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate, August 11, 2011 (photo credit: IowaPolitics.com via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate, August 11, 2011 (photo credit: IowaPolitics.com via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Fox News and the Republican National Committee made an unprecedented decision.  They are deciding six months before the Iowa Caucus who should be taken seriously and who shouldn’t.  Only the top 10 candidates, according to an average of the last five national polls leading up to August 4th at 5:00p ET, will be able to participate in Thursday’s debate in Cleveland, Ohio.

As it stands now, according to the RealClearPolitics average today, the candidates who make the cut are:

  1. Donald Trump – 22.2%
  2. Scott Walker – 12.7%
  3. Jeb Bush – 12.2%
  4. Ted Cruz – 6.3%
  5. Mike Huckabee – 6.3%
  6. Ben Carson – 6.0%
  7. Marco Rubio – 5.5%
  8. Rand Paul – 5.2%
  9. John Kasich – 3.7%
  10. Chris Christie – 3.2%

Right now Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, and Lindsey Graham don’t make the cut.  Perry, in 11th place with 2.7 percent, could squeak in if a poll is released that would help him bump Christie, but the others are likely to be excluded for certain.

The simple fact that Fox News is eliminating candidates this early is troubling enough.  The fact they are using early national polls to do so makes it even worse.

National polling in the Republican primary race is hardly a predictor of who will end up being nominated.  If it were, Rudy Giuliani would have coasted in to the nomination in 2008.  In 2012, the national polling was all over the place.

Case in point — a Gallup Poll taken in August of 2011 showed Rick Perry with a 12 point lead over the eventual 2012 nominee Mitt Romney.

Basing the criteria on national polling gives the advantage to candidates who are well funded early or already have good name recognition.  Frankly, national polling really only reflects name recognition and who dominates the news cycle like, say, Donald Trump.

If they had to make a cut, and I am not convinced they should this early, then at least base it on an average of early state polling.  That gives you a better indicator of where the race really is at.

Also what polls will Fox News consider?

“Such polling must be conducted by major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques,” Fox News said in their announcement back in May.

So, are we using the RealClearPolitics average?  Something else?  Who decides what pollsters qualify as “major, nationally recognized organizations”?  There will be one more poll to be released prior to the deadline. Fox News is expected to have its own new poll before the deadline (how convenient).

Ultimately Fox News is leaving the winnowing process in the hands of those who answer phone calls at home from numbers they don’t recognize.

Who are those people?

Shane Vander Hart is the online communications manager for American Principles in Action, a frequent contributor to TruthInAmericanEducation.com, and the editor of Iowa-based CaffeinatedThoughts.com.