... now the national party and networks face the new challenge of arranging as many as 17 candidates on a single televised stage.But, see, that's not necessarily going to work. The party really, really wants Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson in the debates because they're not white men. We're told that that shouldn't be a problem for Carson, at least:
Largely out of view, executives and journalists from Fox and CNN, with input from the national party, are weighing the entrance criteria for the first two debates. Among the options being considered is using polling as a rough inclusionary test, followed by a fundraising metric -- dollars raised or the number of individual donors activated.
Carson, according to a number of party insiders, is all-but-guaranteed a spot given his relatively strong polling in the GOP field.Except that he's not really polling well -- in the four most recent national polls, all conducted last month, Carson is averaging only 5% of the vote, which puts him in eighth place. He's having trouble sustaining the level of popularity he had after his Obama-bashing speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast -- that speech now seems like his career peak as a scourge of liberalism, and he seems unlikely to repeat it. What if his numbers worsen? Do Republicans put him in the debates anyway? And if so, are we allowed to ask the GOP whether the decision was truly color-blind?
And what about Fiorina? She's never done better than 2% of the vote in any national poll -- The Real Clear Politics average has her in fourteenth place. Even Bobby Jindal beats her. Bobby Jindal! But the GOP wants her in the debates because her gender gives her free rein to bash Hillary Clinton. What to do?
Look, it's simple: You guys are Republicans. You think money is speech. You don't think billionaires' checks are corrupting -- you think free-flowing cash in politics is good for America.
So sell the debate lots outright. Billionaire donors will obviously buy slots for Bush and Walker and and Rubio. Some tech billionaire will probably buy one for Rand Paul and pay for it in Bitcoins.
And then, after that, other billionaires can shell out for the remaining places on the stage strategically. Want someone up there to bash Rand Paul on defense? Maybe Sheldon Adelson or some other hawk will pony up to buy a place on stage for Lindsey Graham, or John Bolton, or Peter King, or all three. Maybe some deficit hawk in the billionaire class will pay to let John Kasich cheerlead for the balanced budget amendment. Party-establishment donors can pay to put Fiorina and Carson up there if they want an unconvincing sense of diversity. Oh, and Donald Trump can buy his own slot.
This could be a problem for chronically underfunded candidates like Mike Huckabee. But maybe some churches can try collecting enough money to buy him a slot if they start a GoFundMe campaign.
The business of America is business, right, Republicans? So why shouldn't that extend to Republican debates?