CNN changes GOP debate formula to help Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina may be getting a seat (or podium) in the next GOP primetime debate. CNN announced this afternoon they were changing the formula for the debate specifically so Fiorina could be on the stage.

“In the event that any candidate is polling in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls released between August 7th and September 10th, we will add those candidates to our top tier debate, even if those candidates did not poll in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls between July 16th and September 10th. We have discussed these changes with the Republican National Committee and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and they are fully supportive.”

There’s been a lot of pressure from Fiorina’s camp to get her added to the CNN debate. Fiorina released a letter earlier today from Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann and dozens of others demanding she be put in the debate.

Carly Fiorina is a top tier candidate in this race. She won the last debate and has been in the top 10 in every poll released this month. To ensure a fair and representative process, your network should seat her alongside the other candidates polling in the top 10. A transparent effort by your network to benefit candidates from and of the political establishment will not be acceptable to conservative grassroots voters. We are the audience for this debate, and we will not tolerate a TV network inappropriately influencing our primary process.

The public campaign, which includes Fiorina raising money off the potential snub, appears to be working. But there’s still no guarantee she’ll get the spot in the September 16th event. CNN notes nothing is settled.

“In May, we announced criteria for our September 16th Republican debates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,” CNN said in a statement. “We said that we would use the average of approved national polls from July 16th through September 10th to determine the makeup of the debates. At the time, we expected there to be many more national polls following the first Republican debate, in August, than there appears there will be.”

CNN continued, “We learned this week that there will likely be only two more polls by the deadline of September 10th. In a world where we expected there to be at least 15 national polls, based on historic precedent, it appears there will be only five. As a result, we now believe we should adjust the criteria to ensure the next debate best reflects the most current state of the national race.”

If the eligibility window closed today, CNN’s analysis of polls conducted from July 16 shows that Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich and Chris Christie would qualify for the top-tier debate. With today’s change, Fiorina would also qualify for the top-tier debate.

But the network noted it remains unknown precisely who will participate in the debates until September 10.

That definitely gives the network an out in case the math doesn’t add up to put Fiorina in. But her star has been rising for the last month. She was considered one of the big winners in the happy hour Fox News debate with Daniel Doherty at Town Hall calling her the “star of the evening.” National Review editor Rich Lowry also published an op-ed today saying it was time to put Fiorina in.

At this rate, Carly Fiorina will hold the dubious distinction of being the strongest primary candidate excluded from a presidential-nomination debate in recent memory, although she will get the consolation prize of the CNN undercard event…What is manifestly unfair is to watch a candidate rise from the very low single digits into more serious contention as she begins to catch on with voters, and then leave her out of the main event regardless. That is what will happen to Carly Fiorina, unless CNN relents.

Lowry has a point and it would look good from a politics standpoint for the RNC to have Fiorina on the stage. She’s still relatively fresh-faced, even though she’s been involved in Republican politics for about a decade. There are still questions as to whether someone who’s never held an elected office should be made president. This isn’t saying Fiorina shouldn’t be on the debate stage because she definitely should. Fiorina has done an excellent job at preparing for 2016, even if she’s just angling for a cabinet position of some kind. She’s a smart lady and has been willing to admit her mistakes, especially at Hewlett-Packard.

But it’s still questionable as to whether she or Ben Carson or Donald Trump should get the nod for the nomination. They all may be smart people, but being a business leader or doctor isn’t the same as being a national leader. It’s just not. Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight Eisenhower are the only presidential candidates to win office without having held elected office before. Even George Washington was president of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, which technically counts as an “elected office.” But presidential elections haven’t really been about policy for a while and are just popularity contests with some policy sprinkled in. It’s still a good thing to have Fiorina on the debate stage. She deserves it. Whether she gets the nomination is anyone’s guess.

Update (AP): Fiorina’s press secretary, Anna Epstein, e-mails: “We are so grateful to the Hot Air readers that helped us send a strong message to the political establishment.”

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022