This Single GOP Debate Candidate Probably Won’t See The Stage Again
We still don't know who will make the cut to appear on the main stage at Fox News Channel's Republican debate on Thursday, as the station is allowing poll results up until Tuesday to determine who qualifies, but we have reason to believe that one candidate won't likely see the stage again after the next couple debates, if he even makes it to those: That's Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Networks decide who gets to participate in main stage debates and who gets relegated to the "undercard" time slot for less popular candidates based on recent polls. The criteria Fox is using to determine what candidates debate on the main stage are as follows: Candidates must place within the top six in the race in national polls, or within the top five in either Iowa or New Hampshire. The network uses averages of the five most recent New Hampshire, Iowa, and national polls (from pollsters it recognizes as legitimate) to determine who qualifies.
Based on recent New Hampshire polls, it looks like Kasich will make the cut this time — barely. His numbers in Iowa and in national polls put him at the bottom along with Carly Fiorina, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Sen. Rick Santorum (who haven't seen the main debate stage in some time), but one number might save him: He's beating out Sen. Marco Rubio for third place in New Hampshire, and not far behind the second-place candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz.
Winning the New Hampshire primary has long been Kasich's strategy. Republican voters there tend to favor more moderate candidates, and this could play to Kasich's advantage in a race against highly conservative candidates, as some of Kasich's stances are closer to the center. An editorial for The Boston Globe urging New Hampshire Republicans to vote for Kasich noted that Kasich accepted expanded Medicaid in Ohio under the Affordable Care Act, expressed support for body cameras on police, resisted photo ID requirements for voters, and has largely avoided the fearmongering rhetoric concerning Muslims and immigrants that is commonplace on the GOP debate stage.
While Kasich's moderate politics may play well in New Hampshire — but not extraordinarily well, remembering that he's in third place in the Granite state — this is not the case nationally. The two front-runners in the Republican field are Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Trump's tough talk on immigration and Muslims (and pretty much everything else) is far from moderate, but highly appealing to many voters. In March 2015, FiveThirtyEight published a chart rating levels of conservatism of potential candidates, and Cruz was rated most extreme.
Kasich will be lucky if he polls well enough to see future debates, particularly after the Feb. 6 debate, which takes place three days before the New Hampshire primary. Unless Kasich pulls off a major upset in that state, we won't likely be seeing him thereafter.