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Outfoxed: Voters Forum to be first for GOP

Staff report
July 14. 2015 9:17PM


A Voters First Forum for Republican presidential candidates, co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader and leading newspapers in Iowa and South Carolina, will be held on Monday evening, Aug. 3, at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College. It will be broadcast nationally by C-SPAN as well as by sponsoring Iowa and South Carolina TV stations and on New Hampshire radio by WGIR and an iHeart radio hookup.

“New Hampshire Today” radio host Jack Heath will moderate the forum, which will be aired by WLTX-TV in Columbia, S.C., and by KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids in addition to C-SPAN.

Publishers of the Union Leader, the Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier, and the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Gazette said in a joint statement that it is important that voters in the three states that lead off the nomination process have an opportunity to see the candidates together on a level playing field at this early stage. They said they were prompted to provide the forum in part because of the narrow criteria that Fox News will use to limit Republican candidates in its Aug. 6 debate in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Fox says only the ‘top’ 10 candidates, as judged solely by national polling, will be allowed on its stage,” the publishers said. “That may be understandable later, but the first votes are half a year away, and there are a lot more than 10 viable candidates. The early primary process gives all candidates a chance to be heard. If networks and national polls are to decide this now, the early state process is in jeopardy, and only big money and big names will compete.”

The Fox plan has been widely criticized and was the subject of protest letters last month from prominent Republicans in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Several candidates have also questioned the exclusionary nature of the Fox debate, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who faces the possibility of not being allowed in a debate in his home state. Others who have criticized the “top 10’’ include Dr. Ben Carson, whose own polling numbers assure him a Fox spot; Carly Fiorina, who says she expects to be included; and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Graham has scheduled a news conference in Manchester this morning to discuss the role of the early states.

On the day more than 50 prominent Granite State Republicans sent their protest letter, Union Leader Publisher Joseph W. McQuaid announced that New Hampshire’s statewide newspaper would host its own presidential forum that would include legitimate candidates who met a list of criteria — including but not limited to an active campaign effort and filing as a candidate with the Federal Election Commission.

Fox News has said that entry into its debate, the first of nine sanctioned by the Republican National Committee, will be based on an average of several national polls as of Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 5 p.m. It has not said what polls it would use, but critics have noted that name recognition could play an outsized role in selecting the field months before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.

A week after the New Hampshire Republicans, including two former governors, protested the Fox plan, a similar group of South Carolina Republicans did the same. (See related story, above.)The Voters First Forum will include the public, both in terms of a limited event ticket giveaway and a survey of topics the public would like to see candidates address. Details of the public involvement will be available later this week at UnionLeader.com.


Politics New Hampshire


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