Will CNN (and the RNC) Lock Out Carly Fiorina?

The rise of Carly Fiorina in the polls won’t get her invited to the debate unless CNN is made to acknowledge recent history.

Two questions come to mind reading this Politico story about the next debate and whether Carly Firoina will qualify for it. First, is this CNN’s decision alone or did someone at the RNC approve it as well? Second, isn’t CNN’s method aimed at penalizing anyone who actually changes their poll numbers in a positive direction?

Fiorina, the only female candidate in the GOP field, has surged in the polls since a widely praised performance in the “happy hour” debate earlier this month. But she has a problem: There haven’t been enough polls to catapult Fiorina from 14th place, where she stood going into that debate, into the top 10 ranking for CNN’s Sept. 16 debate.

That’s because CNN — unlike Fox News, which used only the final five polls released before its debate — outlined criteria this spring in which it said it would average the results of polls released between July 16 and Sept. 10. And of the 10 polls that currently qualify for inclusion in CNN’s average, eight were conducted before the first debate.

The Fiorina campaign’s solution? Since CNN has already said it will use all the polls, it should weight down the older surveys and weight up the post-debate polls — and the RNC should make sure that happens.

“The RNC should ask CNN to treat the polling in July the same as the polling that comes after,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager, in a Medium post. “Because there were nine polls released in the three weeks before the last debate, one would expect 18 polls released in the six weeks between the two debates. If that does not happen, the polling average of those six weeks should be treated as the equivalent of 18 polls. Assuming the numbers remain consistent with current polling, Carly would easily place in the top 10 for the main debate.”

But the RNC says Fiorina’s campaign is trying to change previously disclosed rules it doesn’t like. And the committee’s only role in the process is to make sure the rules are applied fairly and without exception.

Okay, just because the rules were “previously disclosed” doesn’t make them good rules. To my mind, the whole point of candidates taking part in the first debates was to change their poll numbers. They wanted to get more interest and then use that new advantage to build more of a campaign. This would include raising more funds and, in the case of those who didn’t have the poll numbers to be part of the main debate before, getting invited to participate with the “major candidates.”

[See also, “Carly Fiorina Points Out Planned Parenthood Hypocrisy.”]

But averaging polls together from before the debate basically means those with a beginning lead are given an automatic advantage and those who win more popularity with the American voters are shut out of reaching them.

I’m not someone who wants Carly Fiorina to be President. I just think she has a point. In fact, in my opinion, CNN should only be using polls from after the first debate.

I’m curious about why anyone thought the rules were a good idea. They really seem like a strategy to keep the initially less well-known candidates from being able to break into a higher tier.