Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham says the 2016 campaign is being reshaped by the race to get into next month’s FOX News debate.
“I am very worried that we’re about to nationalize the primary process,” Graham says.
The network, with the blessing of the Republican National Committee, will allow ten candidates on stage, based on which 10 rank highest in national polls. Graham, a U.S. Senator from South Carolina, is likely to fall below that threshold. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found Graham had the support of about one percent of likely Republican voters in the U.S.
“If you have to focus on national polling in July of 2015, if you’re not going to spend your time and money in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, it changes the dynamics for our candidates to be focused on national numbers,” Graham says.
Graham says the early states are an important proving ground to judge whether candidates have what it takes to win, rather than just a well-known name or celebrity status. This week the publishers of The Cedar Rapids Gazette and prominent newspapers in New Hampshire and South Carolina announced they plan to co-host a forum in New Hampshire for all the candidates three days before the FOX News debate. Graham is praising the publishers for drawing a “line in the sand” to show the voters in the early states “won’t be ignored.”
“Early on, let us all be heard equally and over time the weeding out process will take effect,” Graham says. “But to limit the debate entry based on national polling undercuts the early primary process.”
Graham made his comments during an interview with Radio Iowa.
AUDIO of interview, 7:00
Graham is campaigning in eastern Iowa today. This is a big weekend in Iowa politics, with five candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination scheduled to share the same stage for the first time tonight. They’ll each speak at the Iowa Democratic Party’s “Hall of Fame” Dinner in Cedar Rapids. Tomorrow, Graham and nine other Republican presidential candidates will appear in Ames at a day-long event hosted by The Family Leader, a Christian conservative organization.