Jon Huntsman Excluded from Debates?

CNN may deny Jon Huntsman a spot in its October 18 debate.

CNN may deny Jon Huntsman a spot in its October 18 debate.

NYT (“Huntsman Spot in Oct. 18 Debate Endangered“):

Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, has been in every presidential debate since he threw his hat in the ring last June. Now, that may change.

CNN, which is hosting a debate in Las Vegas on Oct. 18, has set criteria for participation that Mr. Huntsman — at this point — has not managed to meet. The network has said candidates must reach an average level of support of 2 percent in three separate polls by news organizations published since Sept. 1. Mr. Huntsman has reached 2 percent in two polls, but has been at 1 percent in the rest.

If he doesn’t reach 2 percent in a third poll by Oct. 16, Mr. Huntsman will not be on the stage. Sam Feist, the Washington bureau chief for CNN, said Monday that the network set the 2 percent floor months ago and hasn’t changed it. ”To be clear, it’s the same exact standard we’ve had for all our debates,” Mr. Feist said.

Earlier this summer, Mr. Huntsman joked that he was a “margin of error” candidate. But his campaign has struggled to take off. Last week he did poll in double digits in two polls in New Hampshire. A spokesman for Mr. Huntsman declined to comment.

For his part, Huntsman shrugs it all off:

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman believes he is an “undervalued stock,” and wants to be a “rising star, not a shooting star” in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, he said Tuesday.

“You want to be a rising star, not a shooting star. Everybody is looking for who’s on the cover of Time magazine, who is up here in the polls,” said Huntsman on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It’s got to be a gradual, steady rise based on substance, based upon the early building blocks in New Hampshire. We haven’t had a single vote cast. We haven’t had a single primary.”

Huntsman said undecided donors should “take the ride upward” with him. His poll numbers are about where he thought they would be, he said, and he doesn’t anticipate reaching into his own pocket for more funds.

Huntsman also touted his foreign policy credentials. He said that his experience in diplomacy would distinguish him from previous Republican presidents who had “very little exposure to the world.”

I like Huntsman and think his presence adds something valuable to the debate. On the other hand, he’s got next to no shot at winning.

While it’s up to the debate hosts to set the rules for inclusion, my preference would be a seriousness test that includes past offices held and poll standing. I’d argue that anyone who has been Vice President, U.S. Senator, or state governor–no one has been elected without such service in modern times–at any point in the past eight years automatically qualifies until after the New Hampshire debates. Add in a poll floor–say, 5%–to let in the Herman Cains, Michele Bachmanns, and Newt Gingriches, too.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brett says:

    So he gets double-digit percentage points in New Hampshire (a key primary state), and they want to exclude him on the basis of national polls? Talk about irrelevant criteria, since the primary polls matter much more.

  2. Racehorse says:

    This is, of course, part of the news media control of the “election” process that always steers everything to candidates that have been groomed and chosen by the international cabal that includes the Trilateral Commission, CFR, World Bank, and others. It has gone on for decades and will continue. Third party? Forget it.

  3. I’d love to see a debate between a few candidates who have been excluded. Huntsman versus Johnson would be fascinating to watch.