Six months before a single primary vote is cast, Fox News and the RNC are making a historic move — they have decided to make the decision for the voters and arbitrarily limit the GOP field to ten. They have chosen who constitutes a serious candidate and who constitutes a B-lister based on the average of several early national polls.
The use of national polling itself is problematic, as it gives a clear advantage to well-funded candidates with a clear national presence, while putting grassroots movements at a significant disadvantage. It also prioritizes celebrity over substance.
In spite of her willingness to take on tough issues in a polished yet unapologetic manner, Carly Fiorina has missed the cut. She’s been one of the sharpest critics of Hillary Clinton, and yet, while real-estate moguls, threatening to mount a third-party run, are allowed to turn the stage into something resembling a reality show, her candidacy is left to languish on stage with the George Patakis and Jim Gilmores of the race.
In the midst of a renewed wave of outrage against Planned Parenthood and their barbaric practices, the GOP needs Carly Fiorina. At a time when it seems many GOP leaders would prefer to steer clear of the issue of life, she has made the issue one of the key tenets of her campaign. Moreover, her defense of life has been articulate and heartfelt, and as such she has emerged as one of the most effective and prominent voices for life in the field.
Her appearance on ‘the View’ in June demonstrated that, even before a liberal host and what can only be assumed to be a liberal audience, Carly is unapologetic in her defense of the sanctity of life. Whoopi Goldberg asked Fiorina, “If you feel that women should have the choice — have the choices — why do you think choice is not a good thing?” And despite this question being designed to manufacture a gaffe, Carly responded as coherently and on point as ever:
“Well, look, I think that abortion is obviously a very delicate subject. I happen to believe that science is proving us right. I mean, the zygote – the DNA in a zygote is the same the day you die. But I understand, respect, we don't all agree. We do have common ground on this issue now. The majority of women, the majority of young people, the majority of Americans now think that late term abortion for any reason at all is a problem.”
It is clear that Carly is an asset to the GOP. Yet, she is the most noteworthy casualty of an arbitrary numbers game that does nothing to help our party.
That is not to say that missing this first debate will be a death sentence for her campaign, but it is undoubtedly a setback.
In an effort to be fair and balanced, Fox News created a second tier debate, starting at 5:00 P.M. on Thursday, for the candidates who did not make the cut for the prime time debate. One would think that the opportunity to appear in any debate would entail free publicity, but the cost of entering the second tier debate — and admitting that you are an unserious candidate — outweighs any potential benefit.
Fiorina isn’t desperate for publicity. In fact, she has been one of the more visible and outspoken candidates in the entire field. Additionally, the level of buzz surrounding the prime time debate, much of which can, more than likely, be attributed to Donald Trump’s volatility, will translate into high viewership — a viewership that will be leaps and bounds above the viewership for the early debate.
Fiorina’s campaign has probably already received the invitation to attend that second tier debate. She should absolutely decline that invitation. The cost of accepting the invitation is that the agreement to appear is tantamount to an admission of B-list, also-ran status. Candidates have recovered from missing early debates in the past, as did Rick Santorum in 2012. However, there is a stark difference between missing a debate and attending an inferior debate in a much less high-profile time slot.
Instead, her time would be better served continuing to make inroads in the early primary states, and connecting with voters in those states. While the candidates are on stage dodging the tough questions, and trading barbs with Trump, Carly can be working to build the type of support that will matter when the first votes are cast.
There will be more debates. Voters aren’t going to decide who to vote for based on this first debate, and they certainly won’t make that decision based on the early B-lister debate. Carly isn’t going to gain any ground by beating Lindsey Graham on the debate stage—so with primary season rapidly approaching, why waste time in Ohio when she can be meeting with voters in Iowa?
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