We the People: Then there were … 34!

There are 34 Republicans who announced a candidacy for nomination to be president of the United States.  There are many marginal candidates with no chance of success but there are at least 16 candidates with the experience or support to be considered possible successful contenders for the nod from the GOP.

In order to bring a semblance of order to the official forums leading up to the 2016 election, Republican Party officials have limited the number of candidates invited for national debates. The GOP will endorse nine official televised debates hosted by Fox and CNN.

The host networks imposed their own restrictions on participation in the televised debates: Fox will invite the top 10 finishers in recent polls to the debates and CNN will invite the top 10 finishers but will host a separate debate for other candidates who achieve one percent of support in national polls.

The Republican National Committee, in order to avoid an unwieldy debate, supported the networks’ decisions to limit the candidates invited. The top 10 will likely include Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Dr. Ben Carson and Scott Walker. John Kasich, who just entered the race, further complicates prognostication.

The back pack six — Kasich, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Carly Fiorina — are within one percentage point of qualifying for the last two spots and the contest is becoming closer rather than widening.

A recent ABC/Washington Post poll reflected that those six candidates would command 12 percent of voters in July while May polls reflected they would have had 18 percent of voters.  Lindsey Graham, Fiorina and Perry are planning to participate in debate-like forums hosted by news organizations if uninvited.

The surprising success of Donald Trump at the polls is an unexpected variable for the more conventional GOP candidates. He has been pugnacious and repugnant in calling into question John McCain’s war record and calling Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers.

He is atop the GOP field which squeezes the rearguard of candidates so that six serious candidates are in danger not being able to participate in the televised debates. Trump’s surge in the polls dramatically squeezed the number of supporters available for the back pack candidates.

With only a week to go until the first Republican debate in Cleveland, the back pack is desperately looking to climb in public opinion polls to secure an invitation that will keep their candidacy relevant to early state primary voters and donors.

Perry, the former Texas governor, who is unlikely to make the “big show” next week, has his super PAC spending $1 million on national cable and radio advertising in hopes of boosting his standing by a few points to get him to the podium.

Fox announced it will use an average of the five most recent national surveys to winnow the candidates to the prescribed 10 but the network has yet to identify which national polls. Cruz, the Texas Republican senator, is asking Fox and CNN to use reliable surveys before deciding which candidates win a spot on the podium.

According to Politico, his campaign staff sent a letter to Republican rivals requesting them to join together and asking that only polls with at least 1,000 primary voters be used. Cruz said, “If national polls are going to be used to exclude some candidates — which is questionable on its face — then they ought to at least be polls with some indicia of reliability.” His comment shows just how important this “new” campaign is for all political candidates.

Unfortunately this neupolitik mocks the 2012 GOP presidential television debate slogan: “Your Voice, Your Vote.” Do we want Fox and CNN to decide who can speak to the American people on national issues?

The networks only exist by the sufferance of the people but now decide which presidential candidates will be heard. This is the sad culmination of unrestrained campaign spending and the success of corporations through their K Street lobbyists to make money more important than people in national debates. The 2016 presidential debate slogan should be: “Corporate Voice, Our Vote.”

When presidential campaigning goes “Hollywood” it diverts the attention of the people from politics to personalities. A candidate will necessarily focus early on media, social media and the development of name recognition. Being a celebrity will be more important than being a qualified candidate.

What does this new campaigning get the American people? Graham just called Trump a “jackass,” and Trump retaliated and derided Graham as being unqualified to obtain employment in the private sector.

Trump rides high on wisecracks and xenophobia but is this what the people need or deserve? When presidential campaign spending approaches $3 billion and donors like the NRA spend $10 million on a single issue, what will the neupolitik campaigning with its emphasis on popularity do to campaign spending? We all know the answer to the question.

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