(by Fred Lucas, CNSNews.com) – Rep. Ron Paul of Texas wants to bring American troops back from Iraq, having opposed the war from the outset. He’s also a Republican candidate for president – possibly the most contrarian in the field of 10 – and he may be excluded from a forthcoming GOP candidate debate.
The same could apply to Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the ranking Republican and past chairman of the House Armed Services Committee during most of the war on terror.
Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, one of the strongest voices in the House on border security; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; former national GOP chairman and Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore; and former cabinet secretary and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson may also be left out.
Even Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a leading voice for social conservatives, could be on the fence.
All of these candidates hover around one percent in most national polls. That’s the cutoff point for would-be participants in a May 15 debate in Columbia, S.C., according to the Fox News Channel, which is broadcasting the debate and co-sponsoring it with the South Carolina Republican Party.
The network and the state party agreed on the one percent threshold, as well as on the requirements that candidates must have filed papers in South Carolina and paid the proper fees to be a candidate, state GOP spokesman Rob Godfrey told Cybercast News Service.
It will be the second debate between Republican candidates, as MSNBC will broadcast a debate Thursday night that will include the entire, 10-strong current GOP field. But Fox News is the highest-rated cable news network and could reach more Republican voters.
Paul, who achieved two percent in a Gallup Poll last month but only one percent in a Zogby poll, is confident that he will be in the South Carolina debate, Paul campaign chairman Kent Snyder said.
Nonetheless, Snyder told Cybercast News Service he does not think there should be restrictions on a debate this early in the campaign.
Live debates, he said, will enable many candidates to obtain the name recognition which up to now is enjoyed by the leaders – Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
“At this point all of the candidates should be invited,” Snyder said. “It’s very early in the process.”
A candidate such as Paul would bring a different perspective to the debate, he added.
“Dr. Paul is the only real Republican, the only true conservative in the field of 10,” Snyder said of the 1988 Libertarian Party nominee for president. “He contrasts clearly with the candidates the disgruntled droves see.”
Hunter also expects to be in the debate but, like Paul, disagrees with the restrictions.
“If someone is a registered candidate, he should be allowed to be in the debate,” Hunter campaign spokesman Roy Tyler told Cybercast News Service. “I can understand narrowing as the time draws closer to the primary. But campaigns are in the really early stages now. Any campaign should be allowed to express their views.”
Other campaigns for the less well-known GOP candidates could not be reached for comment.
South Carolina is the site of one of the country’s earliest primaries and will also host the Republican National Committee’s meeting of state chairmen during the week of the debate, giving participating candidates the chance to network with state party leaders from across the nation.
Some conservatives are angry about the one percent criterion at such an important time.
“Although Fox News is supposed to be the conservative channel, its decision to narrow the field means that, depending on the polls they use, conservatives such as Brownback, Gilmore, Huckabee, Hunter, Paul and Tancredo could all be excluded from the debate,” Accuracy in Media Editor Cliff Kincaid wrote in a column.
“Such a process is blatantly unfair, this early in the campaign to those who have not benefited from favorable media attention and big business support,” he said.
“It’s outrageous to narrow the field that much,” Kincaid told Cybercast News Service Tuesday.
In past presidential cycles, candidates who ranked low in the year before the election often surged to be competitive when the primaries rolled around.
In mid-1983, Colorado Sen. Gary Hart was at two percent in most polls, but went on to win the 1984 New Hampshire primary and several other states before losing to eventual nominee Walter Mondale in a hard-fought battle.
Candidates with little name recognition can use debates as a springboard, said Emmett H. Buell, political science professor at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
Even so, Buell said he supports the debate rules set out by Fox News and the South Carolina GOP, because, he said, the public is better served when serious candidates speak on the issues.
“It comes down to the question of whether the public interest is better served by exclusion or inclusion,” Buell told Cybercast News Service.
“If a candidate can’t get one percent of the vote [in polls], he’s more likely to be a distraction than a contribution,” he added. “I welcome a debate that focuses on serious candidates. One percent seems like a pretty low bar.”
Attempts to get comment from Fox News about the decision were unsuccessful Tuesday, but Marty Ryan, executive producer for political programming, told the Associated Press earlier the criteria would ensure that only “serious candidates were taking part in our debate.”
All original CNSNews.com material, copyright 1998-2007 Cybercast News Service. Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.
1. List the Republican (GOP) presidential candidates who might be left out of an upcoming Fox News channel debate.
2. For what reason might the 7 candidates not be allowed to participate in the Fox News debate (co-sponsored by the South Carolina Republican Party)?
3. a) How will the debate between Republican candidates shown on MSNBC May 3rd differ from the debate shown on Fox?
b) Why do you think MSNBC does not have the same requirements for candidates that Fox does?
4. For what reasons did spokesmen for Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter’s campaigns oppose the requirements for debate participation being used by Fox News?
5. Emmett H. Buell, political science professor at Denison University in Granville, Ohio said that candidates with little name recognition can use debates as a springboard, but he supports the debate rules set out by Fox News. He said: “If a candidate can’t get one percent of the vote [in polls], he’s more likely to be a distraction than a contribution. I welcome a debate that focuses on serious candidates. One percent seems like a pretty low bar.”
Do you agree with Prof. Buell? Explain your answer.
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