CNN Debate: No Johnson, No Roemer, But We Invited Rudy and Palin!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 1 2011 11:47 AM

CNN Debate: No Johnson, No Roemer, But We Invited Rudy and Palin!

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Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In a statement, CNN announces its line-up for the September 12 Tea Party Express co-sponsored debate in Tampa: Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman. The network adds that Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin were invited: "Giuliani declined the debate invitation, while a Palin representative has yet to respond to it."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Invites for two non-candidates but nothing for the three other GOP candidates who've held elective office? Yes:

– A person must have received an average of at least 2.00% in at least three national polls released between July 1 and July 31 that were conducted by the following: ABC, AP, Bloomberg, CBS, CNN, FOX, Gallup, Los Angeles Times, Marist, McClatchy, NBC, Newsweek, Pew, Quinnipiac, Reuters, USA Today and Time.
-OR-
– A person must have received an average of at least 2.00% in at least three national polls released between August 1 and August 31 that were conducted by the following: ABC, AP, Bloomberg, CBS, CNN, FOX, Gallup, Los Angeles Times, Marist, McClatchy, NBC, Newsweek, Pew, Quinnipiac, Reuters, USA Today and Time.
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Once again, we've got standards that help out certain candidates even though they don't really have a bearing on who can win the nomination. According to RealClearPolitics, which tracks all national polls, Jon Huntsman has only averaged 1.8 percent support in national polls in August. But if you take out the Public Policy Polling survey, and count the two CNN polls -- one of which, an outlier, had him at 4 percent -- boom, he's in. Santorum was only at 1.75 percent in July, in the poll list that CNN is using, and at 1.9 in August.

Why are these guys more deserving of the podium than Gary Johnson, Buddy Roemer or Thaddeus McCotter? Well, in part it's because pollsters don't always ask about those guys. The last Quinnipiac Poll asked about McCotter but not Johnson or Roemer. CNN asked about Johnson in its last poll (he's at 2 percent, outpolling Santorum and Huntsman) but not Roemer. McClatchy had Johnson at 2 percent, tied with Huntsman and Huckabee, but didn't poll for Roemer.

Hell, this is a distraction anyway. Using polls before August 13 means basing debate attendance on how people were performing in a race that no longer exists -- Pawlenty's out, Perry's in, there isn't a national primary anyway. In CNN's case, the debate criteria are based in part on polls asked what voters think of candidates who aren't actually running. I'm not trying to flak for Johnson or Roemer here, so instead I'll just be shrill: What public purpose is served by including Rick Santorum and excluding Gary Johnson?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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