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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

May 15: Republicans Struggle With Crowded Debate Stage

Republicans have gotten a little lucky this month as two potential presidential candidates (Rick Snyder and John Bolton) decided against running. But that still leaves a large number of candidates and proto-candidates, and some real problems when it comes to deciding how many of them can be herded onto a debate stage without encouraging clown-car metaphors. I wrote about this Wednesday at the Washington Monthly:

To make a long story short, traditional “screens” where the top ten candidates in national primary polls make the stage would not only lop off six or more candidates, but might very well include some (Donald Trump!) party poohbahs would love to discard while bumping others (most importantly Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the field and the sanctioned Safe Hillary Basher) they desperately want to keep around. On top of all that, there’s the fear someone excluded (e.g., Bobby Jindal) could make it a viable campaign issue, and the certainty that excluding a congressional power (e.g., Lindsey Graham) would come with its own set of consequences for party elites. So GOPers are toying with some unorthodox screens [as reported by the Washington Post‘s Matea Gold]:

Among the novel ideas that have been floated to determine a candidate’s strength is the amount of money raised by his or her campaign committee, according to people with knowledge of the talks. But many candidates will not file an initial fundraising report until mid-October. So what about money raised to support them through independent super PACs, which this year are largely functioning as extensions of the official campaigns? (That concept has gotten little traction.)

Probably not, since when you are being attacked as the Party of Plutocrats which has corrupted American politics to the core via championship of unlimited and sometimes secret campaign contributions, you probably don’t want to give big donors more say over the nominating process than they already have.
If I were them I’d just bite the bullet and say that in this day and age, with dozens of men in the running, no presidential primary debate is complete without a woman on the stage. But horrors!–that might look like Affirmative Action.

I don’t think it’s too cynical to assume that all the lavish praise Fiorina has been getting from Republicans in the early stages of the Invisible Primary is intended to make her credible enough to include in debates. But that may take 2% of the vote in some polls, and she’s probably not close to that just yet.

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