Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is not happy about the debate rules set up by the Republican National Committee and Fox News for the upcoming debate — which stipulate that only candidates who register in the top 10 in the national polls can participate in the main GOP debate, which will be held August 6 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Right now it appears that Graham is highly unlikely to qualify for the debate under those terms. A recent analysis by NBC News of the national polls finds him with only 1.4 percent support, putting him in 14th place out of the 15 candidates who were included in those surveys. (To add insult to injury, one of the top 10 is Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who hasn’t even announced yet.)
During an appearance Friday on Fox News, Graham was asked by host Bill Hemmer whether, in the event that he doesn’t crack the top 10, he would still attend the “additional candidates” forum, which is the second-tier televised event Fox News has set up for candidates who don’t qualify for the primary debate.
“Well, I’ve got to make my mind up about that — but Brad Pitt would be in the debate in August. Anybody with any celebrity would be in the debate,” Graham said.
“I think this is a dumb way to weed out the field. I don’t mind weeding out the field over time — but a national poll tests celebrity. Big states have an advantage versus small states. People who have run before have an advantage over those who haven’t. It’s July, for God’s sake. So a national poll is a lousy way, in my view, to determine who should be on the stage. And I quite frankly resent it.”
Hemmer asked: “Do you want to name some names there?”
“Yeah,” Graham said, “the RNC.”
“Any others?” Hemmer continued, clearly trying to suppress a smile.
Graham then gave the answer Hemmer was clearly expecting: “Fox News.”
“How would you resolve this, Senator?”
“I would find a way for everybody who’s filed, and has got a viable campaign, to be on the stage. And after a couple of debates you could start weeding people out,” Graham said.
“It’s not about me; it’s about destroying the early primary process of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Under this construct, nobody really cares about coming to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina anymore — it’s all about money. And what you’re going to reward over time is the people with the most money, and you’re destroying the early primary process. And I think that’s bad for the Republican Party.”
Of course, Graham is making the assumption that his campaign is in any way “viable.”
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