MANCHESTER, NH – Sometimes it’s not about the elephant in the room, but the number of elephants in a room.
If the NH Primary were a beauty pageant, Monday night’s forum at the Dana Center at Saint Anselm College would be like the preliminaries, minus the swimsuits.
From a crowded field of 17 (so far) the following 14 candidates are expected to participate in the 7 p.m. forum, moderated by WGIR radio personality Jack Heath: Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and George Pataki.
According to the Union Leader’s updated story, Cruz, Rubio, and Paul will participate remotely via C-SPAN headquarters due to Senate duties.
There is also some focus on the elephants not in the room – the three GOP candidates who will not be participating – most famously, Donald Trump, currently leading GOP popularity polls, but not pleased with local media following the flap over his John McCain comments a few weeks ago; Mike Huckabee, who is planning on the FOX News debate scheduled for Aug. 6, but never RSPD’d to the invitation; and Jim Gilmore, who missed the cut off to be included, according to the Union Leader.
Unlike the forum, which was open invitation, the FOX debate requires candidates to “qualify” to take the stage by ranking among the top 10 in an average of the five most recent national polls leading into the debate.
The Union Leader, which is sponsoring the Aug. 3 forum, organized their event to be more inclusive of the entire GOP field.
Heath said questions were submitted on a variety of topics derived mostly from voters who submitted them from the three earliest voting states, Iowa, which holds its 2016 caucus Feb. 1; and New Hampshire (Primary Feb. 9) and South Carolina (Feb. 20).
There will be two rounds of interviews, and at the end of the second round, each candidate will have 30 seconds for a closing statement, Heath said.
If you feel 14 GOP candidates feels more like an ant farm than a forum, that’s nothing – in context of the number of Americans who have officially tossed their hats into the Presidential ring.
Being president in 2016 is a quest that has actually enticed 530 official candidates, according to the FEC Form 2 filings, including: 133 Republicans; 80 Democrats; 139 Independents; 2 Independent American Party candidates; 2 American Party candidates; 12 Libertarians; 1 Communist, 1 Jewish/Christian Nationalist; 1 Reform Party; 2 NBC (Natural Born Citizen) candidates; 6 Green party candidates; 1 Federalist; 5 Constitution Party candidates; 6 Ace party candidates; 1 AME candidate; 1 Union party candidate; 1 Democratic Farm Labor candidate; 13 write-ins, 27 “unaffiliated” to a party; 25 “unknown party” affiliation and 25 with “no party” affiliation; 46 listed as “other.”
No word yet on whether a “Survivor”-style reality show (with or without a ceremony that concludes with some bachelors or bachelorettes in the White House rose garden) is in the works to whittle down the field to a manageable bunch.
The forum will be broadcast live on C-SPAN from 7-9 p.m.