For Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki, let’s start this Republican Debate Night with the bad news: You are all still sitting at the kids table. Stuck on the undercard. Not cool enough to join the popular (well, relatively speaking) GOP candidates in prime time.
But now the good news: There’s hope.
The four Republican also-rans who will take the stage at 6 p.m. for Part 1 of CNN’s debate on Wednesday now know that there’s a path out of political oblivion. For inspiration, they just need to look to Carly Fiorina, who seized the opportunity provided by last month’s Happy Hour debate. She performed well, moved up in the polls, and after an effective lobbying campaign against CNN, graduated to the main stage, where she will join 10 other candidates in the much more crowded prime-time contest.
In the Survivor-style race for the Republican presidential nomination, Fiorina was a winner in the first round. She moved up and out of the basement. The clearest loser was Rick Perry, who barely missed the cut for the prime-time debate in August, delivered a middling performance at 5 p.m., saw his fund-raising dry up, and ultimately bowed out of the race late last week. Then there is Jim Gilmore, the longest of the remaining GOP long shots, who now sits in a kind of political purgatory after CNN excluded him for Wednesday’s debate altogether because he can’t even muster 1 percent in the polls. The one-time (long-ago) Virginia governor is an officially-declared candidate for president, but as the Washington Post’s David Farenthold recently observed, he’s barely campaigning for the office. Gilmore says he will live-tweet the debate in absentia. He has 1,400 followers.