Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Best Kept Secret: How Exactly Will Fox Winnow GOP Debate Field?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Best Kept Secret: How Exactly Will Fox Winnow GOP Debate Field?

Article excerpt

The clock is winding down toward the first Republican presidential debate, set for Aug. 6 in Cleveland, and the anxiety level around pretty much every candidate not named Donald Trump is palpable.

Sixteen major GOP candidates are jockeying for 10 slots, and the antics are intensifying.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who may have thought he would be the larger-than-life truth-teller of the 2016 cycle (and not Mr. Trump), wasn't getting much media oxygen. And so he reduced himself to calling his own majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a liar on the Senate floor, sparking a backlash from other GOP elders.

Mike Huckabee stole more thunder when he accused President Obama of marching Israelis to "the door of the oven" over the Iran nuclear deal. When Mr. Obama rebuked Mr. Huckabee Monday for the Holocaust reference, the former governor of Arkansas doubled down with a Facebook video.

Last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina made a video of himself gleefully destroying his old-fashioned flip phone, after Trump read aloud its phone number in public.

Senator Cruz and Huckabee look reasonably safe to make the debate, while Senator Graham will be hard-pressed to make the cut. His Senate BFF John McCain - who won the New Hampshire primary in both 2000 and 2008 - will campaign with Graham in the Granite State next weekend, but that seems a bit late to affect the polls.

Fox News, which is hosting the first debate with Facebook, has said the top 10 candidates from an average of the five most recent national polls, "as recognized by Fox News," will be eligible to debate.

"Such polling must be conducted by major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques," Fox has also said.

But, specifically, which polls meet Fox's criteria?

"That's the most closely guarded secret in America," says Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

Take the six most recent national polls of Republican voters, which, when averaged by Real Clear Politics, give us an idea of who will make the debate. Trump leads (18.2 percent), followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (13.7 percent), and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (11.7 percent). The other candidates are in single digits. The polls were done by CNN/ORC, Public Policy Polling (PPP), ABC/ Washington Post, Fox News, USA Today/Suffolk University, and Monmouth University.

Fox says it will use its own polling group to average the national polls. And, according to Fox's executive vice president for news, "partisan polls will be excluded." That could eliminate the poll by PPP, which is run by Democrats. Fox has set a deadline of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 4, for eligible polls.

There are reasons to believe that the importance of this first debate is being way overblown. Most voters are barely paying attention to the 2016 race. …

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