Now Is A Good Time To Winnow Down The Debates

by John Hawkins | January 2, 2008 7:40 am

ABC and Fox have made a decision to cut their next debates down to 5 candidates[1], which means that my former employer, Duncan Hunter, and Ron Paul aren’t going to be included.

Unsurprisingly, Ron Paul’s supporters aren’t too happy about that,

ABC and Fox News Channel are narrowing the field of presidential candidates invited to debates this weekend just before the New Hampshire primary, in Fox’s case infuriating supporters of Republican Rep. Ron Paul.

Fox News says it has limited space in its studio, which leaves Rep. Ron Paul out of a weekend debate.

The roster of participants for ABC’s back-to-back, prime-time Republican and Democratic debates Saturday in New Hampshire will be determined after results of Thursday’s Iowa caucus become clear.

Fox, meanwhile, has invited five GOP candidates to a forum with Chris Wallace scheduled for its mobile studio in New Hampshire on Sunday. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee received invites, leaving Paul of Texas and Rep. Duncan Hunter of California on the sidelines.

The network said it had limited space in its studio — a souped-up bus — and that it invited candidates who had received double-digit support in recent polls.

…Jesse Benton, Paul’s spokesman, said it was a “big mistake” not to include Paul, especially given Paul’s recent success in fundraising. He said the campaign has been trying to reach Fox News to get an explanation for the decision, but its calls had not been returned.

“There very well might be some bias,” Benton said. “Ron brings up some topics that aren’t very popular with Fox News, as in fiscal responsibility and withdrawing from the war in Iraq … that does leave us scratching our heads a little bit about whether it was deliberate. Based on metrics, I don’t see how you can possibly exclude Dr. Paul.”

It’s not a secret that I am a big fan of Duncan Hunter. He’s my top choice for the nomination in 2008 and I think he’s a guy who should be given serious consideration for the VP slot. Also, let me say something nice about Ron Paul’s campaign: they’ve raised an impressive amount of money and his supporters are incredibly enthusiastic.

That being said, tomorrow is the first primary and after a year of campaigning, neither Ron Paul nor Duncan Hunter have a path to the nomination. Duncan is polling at 1% to 2% nationally and is not in the top 5 in any state. Paul is polling somewhere between 3% to 7% nationally. Additionally, in the latest RCP polls, Paul’s best finish is a tie for 4th place[2] in Michigan with 4% of the vote, 17% behind the leader, Mitt Romney.

Could either Duncan or Paul manage to vault to the nomination after some sort of almost miraculous occurrence? Sure, but understand that’s what it would take at this point for either of them to have a chance. That may seem fair, unfair, right, wrong, however you want to slice it, but it is what it is.

Since we have 5 candidates who are in the hunt and there’s probably at least a 99.9% chance that our candidate is going to be one of those guys, I don’t think it’s unfair to go ahead and winnow the field so that the candidates still in the hunt can get more face time in front of the voters (In fact, if anything, that probably should have been done earlier, maybe in October or November of last year).

If you still think it’s too soon, then the questions become, “If not now, when?” and “If Paul and Hunter should be included even though it would take a miracle for them to win, then why not invite Alan Keyes, Cap Fendig[3], & Hugh Cort[4] to the debate?”

  1. next debates down to 5 candidates:
  2. tie for 4th place:
  3. Cap Fendig:
  4. Hugh Cort:

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