The Republican National Committee has taken great pains to limit the number of debates in 2016 and make them less of a sideshow, out of the sentiment that in 2012 Mitt Romney was badly damaged by having to partake in so many debates in the protracted nomination process (an argument that I’ve previously taken issue with). This time, the RNC has sanctioned nine debates — the first of which will be a Fox News debate on Aug. 6 in Cleveland.
But the problem is, if all of the candidates who have expressed interest decide to run, there’s no easy criteria for determining who can be allowed to debate. For instance, a strict polling threshold, applied to a recent New Hampshire survey, would end up including Donald Trump while leaving out Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry.
Restricting the debates to office holders would exclude Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, the only African-American and female candidates in the race, at a time when the party is trying to shed its image of being limited to white males.