New Hampshire throws spanner in TV debate works

Republicans in New Hampshire are attempting to stop the plan by Fox News to limit the number of GOP candidates who will take part in the first televised Presidential debate in August.

With an expanding field posing obvious logistical challenges, a group of fifty prominent state Republicans have written to Roger Ailes of Fox and to RNC chairman Reince Priebus urging that the debate be open to all declared candidates, rather than – as Fox had said – just the top ten as measured by national polls. The AP reports that

The New Hampshire Republicans who want everyone in say that relying on early polling to determine debate participants will give an unfair advantage to candidates who are better known or have raised more money.

The first televised debate of the 2016 campaign should place all candidates on an even footing and let them make their case directly to voters and viewers, according to the letter, signed by 56 Republicans. They include two former governors, nine state senators and a number of former RNC delegates and state party leaders.

The pressure on Fox to amend its format intensified further on Wednesday evening, when the Manchester Union Leader, the influential local newspaper, said it would host its own forum for all candidates, which would be televised on C-SPAN, on the same night as the Fox debate.

“What Fox is attempting to do, and is actually bragging about doing, is a real threat to the first-in-the-nation primary,” [Union Leader Publisher Joseph W] McQuaid said. “Fox boasts that it will ‘winnow’ the field of candidates before New Hampshire gets to do so. That isn’t just bad for New Hampshire, it’s bad for the presidential selection process by limiting the field to only the best-known few with the biggest bankrolls. Why the RNC and, especially, its New Hampshire representative, Steve Duprey, would defend this and be a party to it is baffling.”

Fox then in turn said that it would add a forum for so-called “lower tier” candidates on the same night as its “main” debate – just earlier in the day. But that may not be enough to satisfy the NH GOP.

How this will all resolve itself in coming weeks is unclear, but it offers a fascinating look at the conflict between the not-always-aligned needs of local politics and national horse-race coverage.


* WORLD * As European leaders agreed to intensify moves to resolve Greece’s debt crisis ahead of the next deadline at the end of this month, S&P cut the Athens government’s credit rating for the third time in a year, signaling that a default may actually be moving closer.

Amid reaction to the White House’s move to escalate the conflict against ISIS by sending more military advisers to Iraq – one critic called it a “band-aid” – the House rejected a move to eliminate funding for programs to arm and train Syrian rebels.

The State Department confirmed that a Massachusetts man, 36-year-old Keith Broomfield, had become the first known American citizen to die fighting ISIS alongside Kurdish forces in Syria. The BBC, meanwhile, has a dramatic video report of a young Englishman, known simply as Harry, who returned home after a year fighting ISIS with the Kurds.

The Guardian has a fascinating read about how ISIS has “ripped apart” Al-Qaeda and has left it as “no longer a functioning organization.”

Senior insiders in Jordan add that al-Qaida around the Middle East has been drained of recruits and money after losing territory and prestige to its former subordinate division. The ongoing war between al-Qaida and Isis has left the US struggling to catch up with the tectonic shifts within the global jihadi movement, intelligence insiders told the Guardian.

Pope Francis pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to make more strenuous efforts for peace in Ukraine when the two men – eventually – met at the Vatican. Putin was more than an hour late for the appointment. It was also announced on Wednesday that the Pope had approved the establishment of a tribunal for judging bishops who had been accused of covering up child sexual abuse by priests.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel laureate, is in China for her first official visit to the country. ABC (Australia) reports that

While in Beijing, Ms Suu Kyi will likely face calls to raise the case of jailed fellow Nobel laureate Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo, sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for circulating a petition calling for democratic reforms.

Meanwhile, India has defended its incursion into Myanmar as a 45-minute “surgical strike” by special forces in which more than 100 northeast insurgents may have been killed.


* POLITICS * Marco Rubio has been fundraising – pretty effectively it seems – off those recent New York Times stories on his finances. Slate reports:

The every-man spin quickly took hold with a number of reporters wondering aloud whether Rubio’s personal finances would actually help him stand out in a presidential field that is full of the rich and absurdly rich. Others, meanwhile, suggested that the relatively weak traffic-ticket report had undermined the more noteworthy dive into Rubio’s financial history. The rapid defense-to-offense reaction was so successful that Rubio’s campaign manager sent out a snide “thank you” tweet to the Times on Tuesday.

Bernie Sanders probably wasn’t expecting to be asked about something of dubious origin circulating on the internet about him – especially not during a public radio interview.

Ashley Parker at the New York Times writes on how Republicans are “still playing catch-up” when it comes to digital campaigning.

Using data to determine the most efficient and effective way to target voters, considered by many to be a crucial advantage for President Obama’s campaign in 2012, could prove particularly important in a crowded Republican primary in which every dollar counts. But it is another area in which only a handful of Republican companies specialize.

The lack of experience among Republican operatives and companies is captured in a coming study by Daniel Kreiss, an assistant professor of political communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Christopher Jasinski, a graduate student there.


* SPORTS * Swiss investigators visited the offices of Fifa in Zurich – Fifa denies it was a “raid” – and apparently took IT material from the offices of senior officials, including Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke, as part of inquiries into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Meanwhile, the bidding process for the 2026 finals was suspended. According to Valcke, “in the current situation, it’s “nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being.”

As real life and satire rapidly morph, John Oliver took to Trinidadian TV with a special message for former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner…


* CULTURE * Wait, what..? Homer and Marge are calling it quits? And Homer takes up with his pharmacist, voiced by Lena Dunham?

Peter Holley at the Washington Post has a nice piece on a “revenge of the nerds”-type sting operation in response to the theft of some valuable game cards.

Finally, ah, The Sun… Really, no-one is better at condensing any nuanced story involving an international and cultural faux pas into a 72-point three-decker including the word “boobs”.



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