As amazing as this may seem, the first nationally televised Republican presidential debate of the 2016 political season is just a month away. With 16 announced GOP candidates and at least two more serious contenders waiting in the wings, voters will be asked to sort through one of the largest presidential political fields in modern history.
But the winnowing process is likely to begin in earnest on August 6, when Fox News holds the first GOP presidential debate in Cleveland. That’s because the price of admission to that coveted political event will be a respectable showing in the national polls, with only the top ten candidates granted a place on stage.
Fox News executives, of course, will be the final arbiters of who gets in and who is left out. The network will require contenders to place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent national polls in the run-up to the event.
Political junkies have begun treating aggregated national polling averages of GOP candidates as holy writ in trying to anticipate who will be among the Lucky Ten.
The top few are easy to predict, even allowing for unforeseen setbacks or gaffes over the coming 30 days. Using national polling data from RealClearPolitics as a guide, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -- who is expected to formally jump into the race this month – might as well start practicing their lines for the debate.
As of today, Bush has a cumulative polling average of 16.3 percent, while Walker’s average support stands at 10.5 percent. Despite some missteps, including his inability to artfully distance himself from his brother’s foreign policy positions, Bush is currently the front-runner in the race.
Walker’s polling numbers have dipped in recent weeks, from a high of 17.3 percent in April, when he made a big splash with a speech to grass roots conservatives in Iowa and began to stir interest nationally. He recently has become bogged down in budget problems in Wisconsin. But Walker is likely to surge again nationally after he formally launches his campaign with a speech in suburban Milwaukee on July 13.
Real estate mogul and reality TV personality Donald Trump is all but assured of a top spot in the Fox debates, as he soars in the polls with his bombastic rhetoric and outrageous insults of Hispanic immigrants.
Others who appear comfortably in the top tier:
- Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon and the only African American candidate in the field (9.8 percent cumulative polling average)
- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has cast himself as in the vanguard of a new generation of GOP politicians (9.3 percent)
- Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a favorite of the religious right (7.8 percent)
Other strong contenders for the debate:
- Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a libertarian who has been reaching out to younger voters and opponents of U.S. foreign intervention (7.3 percent)
- Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a Tea Party favorite and the first to formally enter the race in March, who has begun to dip in the national polls (4 percent)
- Former Texas governor Rick Perry, who is making a solid comeback from a disastrous bid for president in 2012 (3.8 percent)
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is counting on his brash, tough-love style and record as a state chief executive to overcome the Bridgegate scandal (3.3 percent)
Among those likely to be left out:
- Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (2.3 percent)
- Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (2 percent)
- Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to formally announce later this month (1.5 percent)
- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (1.3 percent)
- Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (1.3 percent)
Top Reads From The Fiscal Times