Top ten list: Will Perry make the cut for the Fox presidential debate?

Good morning Austin:

RickPAC yesterday released its latest video on behalf of the former governor’s incipient presidential bid, which he will formally announce in Dallas on June 4.

It’s called, Our best days are ahead.

Pitched to Iowa voters, Perry says, “For those of us who grew up in these agricultural communities, this is the time of the year that just made you feel good about who you were and what you were doing. This is the time when hope springs eternal.”

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Well, Hope did work pretty well for Obama

Barack_Obama_Hope_poster

And Hope Springs Eternal kind of works as an appropriately upbeat but humble slogan for the candidacy of a man who aspires to b ethe Comeback Kid of 2016.

But no sooner had RickPAC released the new video than the Perry campaign faced an existential threat from a most unlikely source – Fox News.

From The New York Times:

The sprawling field of Republican presidential hopefuls will be abruptly winnowed down to as few as 10 — at least for debating purposes — when the first presidential debate is held in early August, Fox News, the debate sponsor, said Wednesday.

The network’s decision to invite only candidates who hit a certain polling threshold is the first organized attempt to curtail the size of the ballooning field. Presidential debates have proved crucial in recent nominating contests, with little-known candidates propelled to national prominence and experienced candidate thrust out of the race by poor performances.

Party and network officials are seeking to balance a desire to include more candidates against concerns about the debates turning into unwieldy sideshows because of the large number of participants. But the network’s decision is certain to elicit protests from lower-polling candidates who would be excluded.

As of now, there are 18 likely presidential candidates in the Republican contest, and the field could grow even more. By their current standing, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard, could be excluded.

Caitlin Huey Burns of Real Clear Politics picks it up here:

CNN announced a two-tier system for its Sept. 16 debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. The top 10 candidates will debate in one group, and the remaining candidates will face off in another. Each candidate must poll at 1 percent or higher. CNN requires debate participants to have at least one paid campaign staffer in two of the early voting states and have visited two of those states at least once.

The polling threshold for the Fox debate threatens to cut from the debate stage a handful of candidates, including some who represent the diversity the party would like to showcase as it seeks to broaden its electoral appeal.

While polling will change between now and August, the RealClearPolitics average shows that Carly Fiorina, who announced her campaign earlier this month, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is forming an exploratory committee, would not make the cut. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is expected to announce his campaign next month, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is considering a bid, would also be excluded. These four contenders are all polling at or below 2 percent.

Fox News seemed to recognize the potential controversy of excluding some candidates, pledging to provide additional coverage and airtime on the day of the debate for candidates who do not place in the top 10.

The RCP polling average does not include Donald Trump, who is again flirting with a presidential bid. In some surveys, Trump places high enough to be included on the stage, according to the polling requirements. Still, he would have had to officially establish a campaign, which he has yet to do.

The Republican National Committee supported the decision by Fox to limit the number of candidates. “We support and respect the decision Fox has made, which will match the greatest number of candidates we have ever had on a debate stage,” said Chairman Reince Priebus.

No party has had more than 10 candidates on the debate stage, and GOP officials were concerned about being able to showcase the party’s deep bench without having candidates trip over one another. Priebus and the RNC made a concerted effort to limit the number of debates this year to nine, aiming to avoid the overload of forums last cycle that Republicans thought amounted to a circus.

Here is the latest polling compiled by Real Clear Politics

Real Clear Politics, recent polls and polling average

Real Clear Politics, recent polls and polling average

And, from Jim Geraghty at National Review:

Under the debate participation rules set by Fox News, Gov. Bobby Jindal, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, former Sen. Rick Santorum, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former New York governor George Pataki would not participate in the first Republican debate. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry would be on the bubble.

Right now Perry sits at number nine, at around two percent in national polls.

But his situation is especially tenuous because he seems unlikely to be able to pass any of the eight candidates ahead of him in national polls before the debate, which will be held Aug. 6 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, site of the 2016 GOP convention.

And Perry finds himself polling only a fraction of a percent ahead of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.  (From Todd Gillman at the Dallas Morning News: “In case of a precise tie in the polling average, there might be more than 10, a Fox official says.”)

But Kasich has yet to be talked much about and could easily experience at least a momentary surge in the polls this summer if he gets in.

And lurking not all that far behind are Perry’s pal, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the mix – all of whom represent a potential threat to Perry’s top-ten status.

From Phillip Bump at the Washington Post:

Now, if you’re John Kasich’s people, you have any number of arguments you can make. After all, you’re only 0.2 percent below Perry in the average, and that’s in a bunch of polls with margins of error north of 3 percent. In fact, you’ve done the same as Perry in every poll except the Quinnipiac one, where Perry got 3 percent to your 2 percent. That’s the entire difference.

If Perry and Kasich had tied, by the way, Fox says it would include both. But what if, say, three candidates tied? Or four? Give Santorum an extra point in a poll or two, and he’s in the mix, for example. Will a candidate accept being excluded due to rounding?

The most serious threat to Perry’s precarious standing would be a candidacy by Donald Trump, who would almost certainly vault ahead of Perry, at least in early polls. That might also trigger an intense period of mourning for the loss of Molly Ivins and what she might have made of the prospect of Gov. Goodhair being undone by the bizarrely-thatched Trump.

 

 In this March 9, 2011 file photo, Donald Trump arrives at a Comedy Central Roast in New York.

In this March 9, 2011 file photo, Donald Trump arrives at a Comedy Central Roast in New York.

Based on polls that have included Trump, he already bumps Perry to tenth. Writes Bump.

But should we include Donald Trump? His numbers come from appearances in just two polls, both from Fox News. Does doing well in two polls and not existing in three others count? By the time August rolls around, the field may be settled enough that this won’t be as big a deal — but it could be!

Is there any better, alternative way to winnow the field to a manageable number?

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show recently offered his own suggestion:

Let’s do it with a game I call, “Let’s get rid of Ted Cruz.”

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For Perry, the Fox reliance on national polling numbers may require some adjustment of strategy, especially if Kasich and/or Trump get in, or if Fiorina, for example, deploys a strategy to give her a lift in national polls instead of working the ground like Perry in Iowa – an intensive, retail approach that is critical to his slow-build comeback strategy.

It is a strategy that, according to this report Tuesday from Craig Robinson, editor-in-chief of The Iowa Republican, is yielding positive results.

Perry’s approach to Iowa couldn’t be any more different than what it was in 2011 when he first came to the state late in the summer and was widely regarded as an instant frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Everything Perry did was big, and his late start meant that there wasn’t much time to do the little things that build bonds with Iowa Republicans.

Perry now realizes the error of his ways. In a recent interview, Perry admitted that his back surgery meant that he was tired, medicated, and not on the top of his game back in 2012. “People are seeing a completely different individual than they did three-in-a-half years ago when we parachuted into Iowa the day after the Straw Poll,” Perry told TheIowaRepublican.com in a radio interview on WTAD AM 930 recently. “Frankly, we were not healthy, and we were not prepared. I admit that. I was arrogant thinking that having been the Governor of Texas for 12 years that I was ready to climb any mountain.”

Perry was bitter following his fifth place finish in Iowa. “This is quirky place and a quirky process to say the least,” Perry told the Associated Press of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. “We’re going to go into places where they have actual primaries and there are going to be real Republicans voting.” It would have been easy for Perry to remain cynical about Iowa, but instead, he has embraced Iowa and the type of campaigning that Iowans expect to see from presidential candidates every four years.

Perry has spent the past three years visiting Iowa, in part, to convince Iowa caucus goers that he’s deserving of another chance. While Perry has been well received, he has also been willing to put in a lot of hard work. Perry is in the midst of a four-day, nine-stop swing that covers a large portion of the state. In Holstein, a town of 1,400 in Ida County in Northwest Iowa, Perry drew a crowd of 110 people at the Veterans Memorial Hall for a town hall meeting.

In addition to working hard, Perry’s team has also found ways to help give back while also underscoring his military background and his commitment to the men and women that serve our country. Perry is confirmed to attend Sen. Joni Ernst’s first annual Roast and Ride on June 6th, but he’s going to start his day with Marcus Luttrell, Morgan Luttrell, and Taya Kyle headlining a fundraiser for the Puppy Jake Foundation in Perry, Iowa. The Puppy Jake Foundation trains and places service dogs to assist wounded veterans. From there, Governor Perry will meet up with the riders that are headed to Boone for the Ernst event later that day.

The valuable lessons that Perry learned from his 2012 campaign are making him a much better candidate this time around. He may now find himself in the role of the underdog, but Perry has seemed to embrace it. While some may be quick to write him off because of his “oops” moment from a Fox News debate in 2012, Perry still possesses an impressive record as governor, and he’s now been fully vetted.

Perry is benefitting from having gone through the gauntlet before. It’s abundantly clear that he now understands what a candidate should be doing in a state like Iowa. It is a luxury that many first time presidential candidates don’t enjoy. One of the things I often hear about Perry is people wondering what would have happened if we had seen this year’s Perry in Iowa back in 2011.

I think it’s safe to say that the race would have been completely different. It’s telling that Perry always has some people pondering the “what might have been” question. It’s an indication that what he’s doing in 2015 is working.

TheIowaRepublican.com asked Bob Haus, Perry’s chief Iowa strategist, how Perry’s campaign swing in Northwest Iowa was going. Haus said, “The farm boy is working till the cows come home. Coming to cattle calls alone won’t get the work done.” While the Ida County stop was by far the largest event of the day for Perry, he also had solid crowds earlier in the day in Sioux Center and Le Mars.

But ultimately, to succeed in 2016, Perry must vanquish the ghost of his debate performance last time out, and to be denied a place at the Fox debate – or to be placed at the “children’s table,” at the CNN debate, could be a crushing blow.

Since last night was David Letterman’s sweet and very funny farewell after 33 years on the air, I’ll finish with Letterman’s Top Ten list the day after Perry’s Oops debate performance – Top Ten Rick Perry Excuses – delivered by the admirably game man himself.

 

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