WaPo’s Matea Gold has the best explanation yet of the behind-the-scenes angst in Republican circles over what they should be telling media sponsors of the (likely) 12 presidential nomination candidate debates. To make a long story short, traditional “screens” where the top ten candidates in national primary polls make the stage would not only lop off six or more candidates, but might very well include some (Donald Trump!) party poohbahs would love to discard while bumping others (most importantly Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the field and the sanctioned Safe Hillary Basher) they desperately want to keep around. On top of all that, there’s the fear someone excluded (e.g., Bobby Jindal) could make it a viable campaign issue, and the certainty that excluding a congressional power (e.g., Lindsey Graham) would come with its own set of consequences for party elites. So GOPers are toying with some unorthodox screens:

Among the novel ideas that have been floated to determine a candidate’s strength is the amount of money raised by his or her campaign committee, according to people with knowledge of the talks. But many candidates will not file an initial fundraising report until mid-October. So what about money raised to support them through independent super PACs, which this year are largely functioning as extensions of the official campaigns? (That concept has gotten little traction.)

Probably not, since when you are being attacked as the Party of Plutocrats which has corrupted American politics to the core via championship of unlimited and sometimes secret campaign contributions, you probably don’t want to give big donors more say over the nominating process than they already have.

If I were them I’d just bite the bullet and say that in this day and age, with dozens of men in the running, no presidential primary debate is complete without a woman on the stage. But horrors!–that might look like Affirmative Action. So I don’t know what these birds are going to do, other than continuing to hype Fiorina in hopes she’ll catch on with a booming 2% of the GOP electorate.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.