09/27/2011 02:35 pm ET | Updated Nov 27, 2011

Jon Huntsman Faces The Possibility Of Debate Exclusion

As readers know, we've been trying to keep abreast of the struggles of some of GOP candidates to earn a spot at the many televised debates the media has decided to drown us in this year. Most of the debates, in setting their criteria for inclusion, use polling data to determine who is and who is not a "serious" candidate. The primary victims of these policies have been Gary Johnson (who managed to qualify for the last Fox News/Google debate), Fred Karger, Thad McCotter (who has since dropped out of the race) and Buddy Roemer. But now, the same fate may befall a candidate who has, thus far, found no barrier to entry: former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

As Michael Shear reports for The New York Times' Caucus blog:

CNN, which is hosting a debate in Las Vegas on Oct. 18, has set criteria for participation that Mr. Huntsman -- at this point -- has not managed to meet.

The network has said candidates must reach an average level of support of 2 percent in three separate polls by news organizations published since Sept. 1. Mr. Huntsman has reached 2 percent in two polls, but has been at 1 percent in the rest.

If he doesn’t reach 2 percent in a third poll by Oct. 16, Mr. Huntsman will not be on the stage. Sam Feist, the Washington bureau chief for CNN, said Monday that the network set the 2 percent floor months ago and hasn’t changed it.

There's been a lot of contention over the debate criteria: Karger has fought his exclusion by trying to point out that other polls outside of those conducted by favored organizations show him with enough support to qualify, Gary Johnson has alleged conspiracy and Buddy Roemer's campaign manager has referred to the regulations as "bullshit rules."

But the debate organizers have been unmoved. The last time we reported on CNN's debate criteria, however, we noticed that it was more or less gamed to allow people like Huntsman to remain in good standing. But Huntsman's not improved his poll position in the meantime, and so now he's close to being excluded himself.

Meanwhile, CNN is making sure that the candidates they don't want in the debate don't make it in anyway. Via Dave Weigel, here's what's CNN's "post-Fox News debate poll" looks like:

It's pretty hard to get 2 percent in a poll in which you aren't included. Meanwhile, what is Sarah Palin doing in there?

At any rate, I had imagined that with McCotter's departure from the race, we'd no longer be able to use the term "Frozen-Out Foursome." But now, it's looking like Huntsman will be joining this misbegotten fraternity soon enough.

Huntsman Spot in Oct. 18 Debate Endangered [The Caucus @ New York Times]
The Gary Johnson Rule: It Lives! [Weigel @ Slate]

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