2016 Election, Carly Fiorina, Elections, NewsEdge

Carly Fiorina might have to debate at the ‘kid table’ again

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Aug. 27– Carly Fiorina’s presidential candidacy has been surging since her well-received performance in this month’s “happy hour” forum for low-ranking GOP candidates, but her supporters are now fuming that the former Hewlett-Packard CEO still might not get a spot at the “grownup table” for the top 10 at next month’s debate.

47963562.cachedDespite ranking seventh in the most recent average of national polls, Fiorina is caught in the crossfire of being in an unprecedented 17-candidate Republican field and debate host CNN’s reliance on outdated polling to pick the participants. Though she has vastly improved her standings in the past few weeks, it might not matter if placements in the debate scheduled for Sept. 16 at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley fail to accurately reflect the current state of the race.

CNN will determine the top 10 candidates on Sept. 10 by averaging polls going back to July 16 conducted by ABC/The Washington Post, Bloomberg, CBS/ The New York Times, CNN, FOX, Gallup, Marist, McClatchy, Monmouth University,NBC/The Wall Street Journal, Pew, Quinnipiac, USA Today and Time.

But Fiorina’s campaign argues that while those agencies conducted nine polls in the three weeks before the first debate, hosted by Fox News on Aug. 6 in Cleveland, far fewer are scheduled for the time afterward — giving the pre-debate polls much more weight. The Republican National Committee must ask CNN to correct this, deputy campaign manager Sarah Isgur Flores wrote in a memo this week.

“To be clear, if Carly isn’t on the main stage, it will not be because her rise in the polls can’t overcome lower polling from July, but because only two of CNN’s chosen polling companies have released polls at all since the first debate,” Flores wrote. “If the RNC won’t tell CNN to treat post-debate polling consistently with pre-debate polling, they are putting their thumb on the scale.”

But CNN says it’s too late.

The network issued a statement this week noting it published its debate criteria May 20, and Federal Election Commission guidelines clearly state those criteria can’t be changed now. “We believe that our approach is a fair and effective way to deal with the highest number of candidates we have ever encountered,” the network said.

The only woman in the 17-candidate GOP field, Fiorina — HP’s CEO from 1999 to 2005, and the first woman to lead a Fortune 50 company — earned plaudits after the Aug. 6 “undercard” debate in Cleveland for her remarks on foreign policy and women’s issues as well as her criticisms not only of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton but of Republican rivals Donald Trump andJeb Bush.

On Aug. 5, Fiorina, formerly of Los Altos Hills but who now lives in Virginia, had ranked 14th among the Republican candidates, with 1 percent support, in an average of recent national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. Now Fiorina is in seventh place nationwide, with 6 percent support, trailing Trump, Ben Carson, Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, in that order.

In Iowa, she’s in fifth place, trailing Trump, Carson, Walker and Cruz; in New Hampshire she’s in fourth place, trailing Trump,John Kasich and Bush.

“It will be disappointing if Reince Priebus and the Republican establishment stand by and let a TV network keep Carly off the main stage … again,” Flores wrote. “It’s a simple question: Will we have a fair debate process or will the political establishment keep ignoring grass-roots Republicans?”

The RNC issued a statement claiming it “had great success creating a more orderly debate process but ultimately the criteria is legally left to the networks to determine” and candidates have known of the rules since May.

“Fiorina is clearly the primary victim of the network’s choice of methodology to determine entry into the debate. She’s not the only one, though,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “This system is a bad one, and it has set a terrible precedent.”

Sabato has called for having two equal debates back-to-back in prime time, with candidates divided up by lottery on that day so they don’t even know who they’ll be facing until the last minute.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry also was excluded from the Aug. 6 prime time debate by only a fraction of a percentage point, he noted, and now his campaign is foundering. “He might have been able to survive and get enough money had he gotten in that first debate.”

Josh Richman covers politics. Follow him at Twitter.com/Josh_Richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.

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(c)2015 The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.)

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