The Corner

The Next Debate’s Convenient Qualifications Threshold

The Politico/NBC News debate had an interesting threshold for qualifying candidates: They must be at 4 percent in one of eight national prominent polls of Republicans taken since November 2010.

Under that restriction, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum qualified to participate in the September 7 debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Thad McCotter, Buddy Roemer, and Gary Johnson did not qualify.

The RealClearPolitics average of recent polls shows most of the candidates easily clear the 4 percent threshold. Only two don’t: Santorum and Huntsman, who are averaging 2.1 percent and 2 percent respectively.

So how did they squeak in? Well, Santorum benefits by the fact that the polls don’t have to be the most recent: Back in June, he reached 6 percent in a couple of polls.

And Huntsman? Well, his campaign must be breathing a sigh of relief that the threshold was exactly 4 percent because the highest Huntsman has ever been in a reputable national poll is . . . 4 percent.

In fact, among the polls conducted by Politico and NBC News’s approved pollsters, he’s achieved that rank only once: earlier this month in a CNN/Opinion Research poll.

But if Politico/NBC News wanted to make sure even the candidates lagging in the polls currently got included, why 4 percent instead of say, 3 percent?

Maybe because in a May Gallup poll Johnson got 3 percent.

Apparently, not all of the lagging candidates are considered equally worthy of air time. 

Katrina TrinkoKatrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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