Whining About Debates

Curt Anderson is a Republican media consultant and a former political director at the Republican National Committee. He is upset about the plan to limit participants in the August 6 GOP Debate to the Top 10 in the polls. He believes that we should “Let All 16 Candidates Debate.” Bet you can’t guess why? Actually, I bet you can.

He lists seven reasons that “the plan to limit the participants in these debates is ridiculous in almost every respect.” He uses bullet points. I thought only I did that.

He fits his bullet barrage in between a threat that the evil GOP – Fox – CNN plan will cause the Republicans to lose the next election and a request to “trust the voters” and “let freedom ring.”

Start with fear end with patriotism. Nice touch.

Ready to guess? Right, no need to guess; it is much too easy.

Anderson’s client, Bobby Jindal, is not slated to be in the top 10 by the time of the first debate so he will be relegated to image burnishing at a high school gym in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Fly to New Orleans, rent a car, drive to Houma (43.6 miles). It takes about 55 minutes. Don’t expect too many TV trucks.

Enter now Amanda Cox and Kevin Quealy who wrote a story called “Chance Will Play Role In First G.O.P. Debate Lineup” under the Upshot banner in The New York Times.

Okay, here is a confession. I don’t always understand all of the statistical analysis in The Upshot, but I have more or less come to the view that the writers probably do. There is the possibility of embarrassment at the hands of those skilled enough to call them out on the math. That should be enough incentive. They remain, however, safe from me.

In another stab to the heart of print journalism, this is a story that is far better online because the pictures of the candidates wiggle around – some moving in and some moving out of the top 10 – depending on a variety of rule making choices described in the story.

Guess who never gets in? Too easy again: Bobby Jindal. Cox and Quealy provided no statistics on Jindal’s likelihood of making the stage at the homes of the Terrebonne Tigers or the Ellender Patriots. Probably not much home basketball at either high school in early August, but mid-September could be a problem.

In the print version of the story, there was a chart showing the probability of each candidate staying among the top 10 and getting into the debate based on 10,000 possible simulations of the polling results. The top eight get in 100% of the time. Chris Christie makes it 95% and Rick Perry 75%. The first two who miss the cut are Rick Santorum and John Kasich who would make the top 10 in only 25% and 11% of the 10,000 simulations, respectively.

Then comes Bobby who would make the top 10 one time out of 100. At least the spokespeople for Carly Fiorina, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham, all of whom make the top ten 0% of the time, had the good grace not to whimper in The Wall Street Journal op-ed page.

Why the limits on the number of debaters? To avoid an embarrassing food fight with 15 grown men and one grown woman shouting over each other. Bad for the GOP brand: is that even possible?

Even 10 debaters are far too many, but there might be a solution. Some of the top self-described serious candidates are threatening to bail if Donaldo, the Honorary Mexican, Trump (currently number one in the polls) is permitted to join them in their dark suits and fake glasses. If the big shots do bail and the small fry move up, there might be a Louisiana high school gym available that night.

Since nothing is at stake in the debates, they are really just image builders for future lobbying and TV careers. For that, the tournament suggested two weeks ago would have been much better. At least more fun.

Do you ever wonder if our elections could be more interesting than they are? Are the Democrats, the Republicans and the Federal Election Commission really up to the job? Younger voters sure don’t think so.

If the point is to put on a show without much concern about fairness, ethics or a good outcome, how about calling in Sepp Blatter, the scandal-prone head of FIFA (sponsor of the World Cup), who will soon be available for a new challenge.

He has years of experience staging quadrennial events with billions of spectators, fierce competition, masses of sponsorship and a heavy dollop of bribery.

Sounds perfect.


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