Lame: Next Republican debate will also feature an "undercard" debate for low-polling candidates

By October 28th, we’ll be four full months into Trumpmania and will have shed, at a minimum, two of the most successful Republican governors in America from the field. Let’s either do one big debate with all the candidates left or face the hard reality that we’re never going to have a President Pataki or President Graham by culling the asterisk candidates. Another undercard debate isn’t going to help anyone who didn’t make it out of the first two. In fact, didn’t Chuck Todd say just a few days ago that NBC felt no pressure to feature 10 or 11 candidates like the first two debates did? “Now we’re in debate three, it’s time to show viability and only the viable ones survive,” he claimed. What happened to that?

Ah well. Via CNBC, here we are.

National polls will be used to determine a candidate’s eligibility and placement on the stage. To be eligible to appear in either segment, a candidate must have at least 1% in any one of the methodologically sound and recognized national polls conducted by: NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN and Bloomberg, released between September 17, 2015 and October 21, 2015.

To appear in the 8pm debate a candidate must have an average of 3% among these polls. The polls will be averaged and will be rounded up to 3% for any candidate with a standing of 2.5% or higher. Candidates who average below that will be invited to the 6pm debate.

Note how specific the criteria are. Not every poll taken over the next month counts, just the ones taken by broadcast or cable news networks. Not every poll taken in September counts, just the ones taken within the past two weeks. And you don’t need to maintain any kind of threshold average to qualify for the undercard debate. All you need is to hit one percent in any qualifying poll during the relevant time period and you’re in, even if you’re effectively averaging zero point zero.

So who would be in and who would be out if we had to go by the numbers we have today? A bunch of people are laughing on Twitter that, going by the current RCP averages, Rand Paul at 2.3 percent would be in the undercard debate all by himself. Which is funny, but not true. Again, the RCP average doesn’t matter; the relevant average for making the 8 p.m. debate is the average of only those polls taken by broadcast or cable news networks. There have been four such polls taken since September 17, with Paul scoring four percent, two percent, two percent, and three percent, respectively. That’s an average of 2.75. He’d make the main stage, provided he hasn’t already pulled the plug by then. The undercard debate would consist of Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and, believe it or not, George Pataki, who somehow managed to pull one percent in Fox News’s poll earlier this week. The only man still running who wouldn’t make the cut for either debate is Lindsey Graham, who pulled straight zeroes in all of the network news polling since September 17th (but did manage one percent in a USA Today/Suffolk poll taken within the past few days). If the difference between qualifying for the undercard is getting one percent in one poll over the span of a month and being stuck consistently at zero, why even have a cut-off at all? Just let Graham debate. Especially since, according to a lot of people on Twitter who watched at the time, he was the most effective speaker at the second undercard debate held earlier this month.

Eh, I think this problem will probably resolve itself as Paul and most of the asterisk candidates drop out over the next few weeks. Jindal’s the only one who might hang on given his potential in Iowa and the fact that he might benefit if he’s able to go toe to toe with Trump in front of the cameras. If he hangs around and the rest of the undercard group drops out, CNBC will have no choice but to put him on the main stage.

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on February 04, 2023