First Republican debate line-up declared, Jindal misses out

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Aug 05, 2015 23:53 IST

The prime-time line-up for the first Republican presidential debate for the 2016 White House race was announced on Tuesday and Indian-American Bobby Jindal didn’t make it.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul were among those expected to be named to the A-list, and they did. Chris Christie and John Kasich made it narrowly, grabbing the last two slots. Jindal didn’t.

He and six others, including Rick Perry, will battle it out in a lesser debate that will precede the prime-time show. Both debates take place on Thursday, in Cleveland.

The Fox vote doesn’t, however, commit the candidates to these groups for the entirety of the 2016 race. They will move up and down depending on their polling numbers.

CNN, which hosts the next debate, will use the same formula.

Many commentators now believe Fox News has displaced Iowa as the first primary state, at least for Republicans, for the amount of time candidates spend on the network, being interviewed.

Media houses that will host these primary debates were faced this time with an unique situation — a higher than usual number of Republican candidates, 17.

Not everyone can be put on the stage at the same time, right-leaning Fox News, which is hosting the first this Thursday, decided, and proceeded to split the field into two.

The top 10, determined by an aggregate of polls, will get the prime time slot, and the remaining will be accommodated at another debate, which will be shorter and earlier.

Christie and Kasich, who were among the last of the heavyweight candidates to enter the race, were faced with the humiliating prospect of not making it.

Specially Kasich, who stood to be kicked down to the lesser debate in his own state — Cleveland is in Ohio, and he is the governor for the state. He survived, and will be relieved.

Perry, who had flamed out of the 2012 primary after flubbing an answer — oops, he had said famously — has run a far more disciplined campaign this this around.

He had held the No 10 slot for a while, but got edged out by Kasich’s late surge. He will be disappointed. So will Jindal, the Indian American governor of Louisiana.

Unlike Perry, however, Jindal never made it to the first 10, doing badly in all polls. He was not worried, he told interviewers again and again, saying he had been there before.

Jindal’s position is that when he was running for governor, he was in similar situation — with terrible poll numbers — but he went to win not one but two terms.

But unlike then, bad poll numbers can hurt, they can deny candidates the opportunity of a prime-time debate — which cannot be compensated by any number of paid ads.

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