Jindal and Santorum Deserve to Debate

Santorum_JindalThe Washington Times reported that Bob Vander Plaats, President and CEO of The FAMiLY Leader, believes that both Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum deserve a spot on October 28 on the CNBC debate stage.

“I think both of these guys probably deserve a spot on the debate stage,” Vander Plaats said.

I agree. As it stands, both do not meet the criteria, which requires a 2.5 percent national poll average in order to debate, and that is unfortunate.

The media attention is already focused on national polling front-runners, which further impacts polling, which impacts who can participate in the primetime debate, which impacts national polling, and you have a perpetual cycle which doesn’t help voters make a decision about candidates or expose them to lesser-known, quality candidates.

The focus on the national stage, rather than on early states, allows well-funded candidates and candidates with high name ID to campaign less and focus on sound bytes more. It bypasses the grassroots.

It becomes more about personalities and less about issues and policy. The types of questions asked during the last two debates did little to improve that.

Jindal in a released statement blasted the process:

Two weeks ago, I was surprised to learn that the criteria for participating in the upcoming RNC-sanctioned presidential debate do not take into account performance in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

No candidate for President has won the nomination of my party without winning in either Iowa or New Hampshire in the modern era, and I suspect that pattern will continue this year. I’ve been gaining ground and campaigning hard in the state where Republicans will cast the first real votes for President in 2016: Iowa.

While some in Washington have wrongly suggested that Iowa and NH should not be the first states in future elections, they are in fact the first states in this election. By ignoring the early states and instead only looking at meaningless national name ID polls, the networks are in effect trying to create a national primary. They are attempting to winnow the field long before the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire get to cast their ballots by restricting access to debates.

The primary beneficiary of this process is Donald Trump, a candidate completely devoid of substance, but a candidate who is well known nationally for his TV show and his juvenile antics. What he lacks in depth or seriousness he more than makes up for with national name recognition from his long career as an entertainer.

Just as Chairman Priebus was the only person with the power and authority to attempt to correct the problems he saw in our 2012 nominating process, he is also the only person with the power and authority to force the networks to measure progress in Iowa and NH, and stop ignoring the reality of how we nominate our nominee for President.

The CNBC debate will leave two of the hardest-working candidates off the primetime stage, and those watching the debate will miss out on the strongest two candidates in the field in terms of policy as well.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) have campaigned hard in Iowa. Santorum has attended 162 events over 60 days in the state. Jindal has been to 112 events over 64 days. Both have given voters excellent access to be able to ask questions during meet and greets and town hall meetings.

I haven’t seen that in any other campaign. The current debate criteria and hyper-focus on national polling driven by media attention is not healthy for the vetting process.

In terms of policy, Jindal is a policy wonk. He stands out in terms of offering substantive domestic policy positions. His experience runs deep and his presence on the debate stage would enhance a discussion on those issues and expose Americans to a sound, experienced candidate. With the current process Jindal literally had to attack Donald Trump to get any national attention because of national polling numbers. Santorum is the field’s leading expert on Iran and radical Islamic terrorism. It’s asinine to have discussion on foreign policy without him at the table.

They both make the field stronger and deserve to be given time on the debate stage.

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.