It’s no secret that Iowa Congressman Steve King has been trying to influence the 2012 Republican presidential nominating process for much of the last year.
Although most of his movements have been under the radar, his strategic partnership with Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, another state that plays a key role in the presidential selection process, has yielded a loosely structured if not intellectually coherent means of helping grassroots conservatives discern which candidate might best champion their issues if elected to the presidency.
King and DeMint, together with a conservative Princeton law professor, Robert George, who is also the founder of the American Principles Project, will be holding court with a majority of presidential candidates at the Palmetto Freedom Forum in Columbia, South Carolina, on Monday.
The American Principles Project sponsors the event, and the threesome invited potential Republican nominees with whom they desire to have “a substantive discussion of their stances on critical issues facing our country.” The event will be broadcast statewide over South Carolina Public Television and will also be carried on C-SPAN.
The eight that received an invite include:
— Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
— Atlanta businessman Herman Cain
— Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
— Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani
— Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
— Texas Congressman Ron Paul
— Texas Governor Rick Perry
— Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney
Absent from the list is former United States Senator Rick Santorum. What’s odd about the exclusion of Santorum is that he appears to bear the closest resemblance to both King’s and DeMint’s comprehensive conservative views. Santorum also has an impressive congressional record and has championed the conservative movement’s defining issues for the better part of the last 20 years.
The reason that Santorum wasn’t included is because he didn’t meet the criteria set by King, DeMint, and George. That criteria requires candidates to average five percent in national polls according to the aggregated poll ratings by Real Clear Politics. That means people like Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani, who are not even officially candidates, received invites over Santorum.
Santorum’s aggregated poll ratings by Real Clear Politics stands at only two percent, well short of the group’s criteria. However, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, two candidates on the decline, also fall below the five percent threshold, yet were included.
What’s disappointing is that King and DeMint chose to base their criteria on national polling numbers in the first place. The last I looked, we don’t select our nominee based on national polls. What matters is how candidates fair in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
In essence, King and DeMint are allowing the national media to limit who can participate in their candidate forum. It seems odd that a candidate like Rick Santorum can participate in every major debate, but can’t score an invite to an event organized by his fellow conservatives.
King, DeMint, and George will probe the candidates’ understanding of the Constitution, belief in free markets, commitment to national security, fidelity to the pro-life movement, and commitment to traditional marriage. It’s a worthy cause, but one has to wonder why the criteria was written in a way to exclude a candidate like Santorum who is working hard in early states like Iowa and South Carolina and is rising in the polls, but includes candidates who are falling or not even in the race.
In the weeks leading into the Iowa Straw Poll, King impressed upon the national media the significance of the event, insisting that candidates who skip it risk paying a price in the Iowa Caucuses, and that those who win or perform surprisingly well earn the right to continue into the primary season. Santorum beat expectations and received a straw poll bump, but that must not matter to King and DeMint. Instead, it seems all that matters is national name ID.
King and DeMint are now assuming the role that the liberal media have long assumed – that of gatekeepers. If Senator DeMint is serious when he said, “Hopefully, this event will be an important part of the process to choose the next President of the United States,” then why wouldn’t you at least create a criteria that would allow you to include all of the candidates who have participated in multiple national debates?
It is now becoming easier to understand how DeMint, the conservative leader in the U.S. Senate, ended up endorsing Mitt Romney four years ago. He and King seem more influenced by national poll numbers than what the candidates actually believe in and stand for. If anyone should be giving the underdog conservative a shot, it should be these two. Sadly, when it comes to presidential politics, they have once again failed.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
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