Get Ready For Some Late July GOP Madness

One under-appreciated aspect of the Trump-a-Paloosa we’re undergoing right now is that the wily billionaire demagogue is soaking up a lot of media attention that is desperately needed by other Republican presidential contenders trying to make the ten-candidate Fox News debate cut.

At Politico today, Steven Smith answers this blogger’s prayers by supplying more (though not definitive) information on how the Fox winnowing will actually work. By saying it will invite the ten top candidates in the “five most recent national polls” prior to August 4, and suggesting that standard methodological polls alone will suffice (as Smith notes, robopolls cannot really test 17 candidates, anyway), Fox is implicitly inviting a clustering of such polls just prior to August 4, with the big question being whether well-regarded academic polls like Quinnipiac’s will be included along with major media polls.

So it’s increasingly clear the polling spike marginal candidates need to make the cut needs to happen in late July–not earlier, not later. Thus, says Smith, John Kasich’s scheduled July 21st campaign launch probably couldn’t be timed much better; if he gets a post-announcement bounce, it could bounce him right up into the top ten. For those in the danger zone who have already announced–Perry, Jindal, Santorum, Graham, Fiorina, Pataki and maybe even Christie–the only way to get this sort of bounce is to force one’s way into the news.

So for these candidates, the big strategic question is whether throwing a bomb or three in late July to make the Fox debate cut is worth the long-term risk of self-marginalization. The alternative is to accept a place at the kiddie table “forum” earlier on August 6 and hope media, activists, donors and party elites don’t mentally strike one’s name from the insanely long list of contenders. I’m guessing most of these birds will not want to take that chance. Get ready for some serious gyring and gimbling in late July.

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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.