Fruits of a Sprawling GOP Field

The abundance of major Republican candidates for president is not only affecting the dynamic of the race. It is challenging basic assumptions about how Americans will pick their president in the coming election cycles.

Currently, there are seven declared Republican candidates.  Circling above the runway are anywhere from 8 to 12 more potential candidates, all with a legitimate following and their own gravitas. Americans have not previously witnessed a political nomination pageant on such a scale.

Such a bevy of GOP candidates raises basic and obvious challenges for the Republican Party. For example, how to fit so many candidates on one stage for a debate?  Increasingly, news organizations are concluding this is not possible.  Fox News and CNN, scheduled to host the first debates, have adopted a “poll test” to determine who receives an invitation.  The two organizations plan to invite only those candidates who crack the top 10 in national polling.  CNN will offer a second forum for those candidates not making the cut, hosting a separate debate in a sort of consolation bracket.

Greek mythology aside, this Procrustean arrangement makes the debates more manageable, but carries an obvious downside.  The poll test deletes certain candidates who are serious by objective standards before the voters even have a chance to evaluate them fairly.  Moreover, even the choice of polling is not without controversy.  Which polls are selected will determine, at the margins, which candidates make the cut.  Depending on the polls, notable candidates who may be excluded include former Senator Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa Caucuses in 2012, and Carly Fiorina, who is wowing Iowa crowds now.  Under the average, prominent governors from major states—Ohio’s John Kasich and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal—also currently would be left out.

Read the rest of the article at Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research

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