New Hampshire Republicans want Fox News to include more candidates in its presidential debates.
More than 50 top Republicans in the Granite State
sent a letter Wednesday to Fox News head Roger Ailes, and Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, asking that they consider changing the criteria used for determining which presidential candidates get to participate in the first debate in August.
Fox News announced in May that it would only include the top 10 candidates in the debate
, which it said it would determine based on an average of five of the most recent polls.
But several powerful Republican officials in New Hampshire, where the first presidential primary is held, say that that decision is subverting the electoral process.
"Historically, it has been the responsibility of early primary and caucus states to closely examine and winnow the field of candidates, and it is not in the electorate's interest to have TV debate criteria supplant this solemn duty," the group writes.
"To do so would undermine the very nature of our process and the valuable service that states like New Hampshire provide to voters across the country," they add.
The New Hampshire Republicans, which includes former governors, state senators and representatives as well as other party officials, say that the criteria are "unnecessarily narrow" and it risks "eliminating potentially viable candidates based on unreliable national polling that is rarely predictive of primary election outcomes."
They claim that "the margin between the 10th candidate and those that don't qualify will almost certainly be statistically insignificant."
In addition, the Granite State Republicans say that "denying candidates an opportunity to showcase their talents and experience in the first televised debate would artificially distort the political process, stifle democracy and competition, and induce voters to consider only those candidates pre-selected by virtue of their name ID rather than their potential as candidates."
They argue that since this will be the first televised debate, the candidates should be allowed to begin the 2016 election cycle on equal footing.
The group offers a suggestion for how Fox News can alter the criteria to include more candidates: host two debate panels to appear back-to-back, on consecutive nights or the same night; divide the top six polling candidates evenly between those debates; and then randomly assign the remaining candidates to either of the debates.
"This is not only appropriate, but also necessary to ensure that the Republican Party ultimately selects the best nominee possible," the Republican leaders add.
"We strongly encourage you to revise your criteria and present a format for your debate that embraces these principles, and puts voters' interests first," they conclude.
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