McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies Advisory: The Road to Cleveland -- May 29, 2015


The debates

First GOP debate to be held in Cleveland

Cleveland, the site of the 2016 Republican National Convention, will also play host to the first Republican presidential debate of the primary season. On August 6, FOX News will hold the first debate of what promises to be a fascinating primary process at the Quicken Loans Arena. [more]

GOP wrestles with who to include in debates

As the Republican field continues to grow, the party and the networks are wrestling with how to determine how many candidates should participate in the debates – and more importantly, what metric to use to determine who is in and who is out. [more]

RNC releases early debate calendar

Earlier this month, the Republican National Committee unveiled its calendar for primary debates – at least through March of next year.

Sanctioned debates

  • August 6, 2015
    Fox News
    Quicken Loans Arena
    Cleveland, Ohio
  • September 16, 2015     
    Ronald Reagan Presidential Library                                                        
    Simi Valley, California
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
    Fox Business
  • December 15, 2015
    CNN/Salem Radio
  • January 2016
    Fox News
  • February 6, 2016
    ABC News
    St. Anselm College's Institute of Politics       
    Manchester, New Hampshire
  • February 13, 2016
    CBS News
    South Carolina                
  • February 26, 2016
    NBC News/Telemundo/National Review
    Houston, Texas                            

Pending debates

  • March 2016
    Fox News
  • March 2016
    CNN/Salem Radio
  • TBD
    Grassroots Debate                         

FOX News announces criteria for first debate

FOX News announced earlier this month that it would limit the first GOP presidential debate to 10 participants. The network said it would select the top 10 based on the average of several national polls, but didn’t spell out the formula for determining which polls count and which ones don’t. The network promised to give additional airtime to candidates who meet the 1 percent threshold in polling, but who don’t make the top 10. As it stands, a number of big name candidates – including sitting and former governors and senators – would be excluded from the first debate. [more]

CNN announces criteria for second debate

While FOX News announced that it would limit the first debate to just 10 participants, rival network CNN – who will host the second debate – announced a slightly different format. The September 16 debate, which will be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, will be divided into two parts featuring two groups of candidates. One grouping will feature the top 10 candidates according to public polling, and the other will include candidates who meet the minimum threshold of 1 percent in public polling but are ranked outside the top 10.

Unlike FOX News, CNN announced exactly which polls would be used to determine how the candidates will be grouped. [more]

The contestants (The latest additions to the field in May)

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard 

Carly Fiorina (R-Calif.), the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, announced her bid for the GOP nomination in early May. Fiorina, who has never held elected office, lost a U.S. Senate bid against Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2010. Fiorina, who is seen as a long-shot, has been among the GOP's most outspoken critics of Hillary Clinton. [more]

Ben Carson, Neurosurgeon

Ben Carson (R-Md.), a Maryland neurosurgeon who has become a popular figure among Tea Party activists and conservatives, announced his bid for president in Detroit this month. Carson, who is the only African-American in the race, continues to poll surprisingly well despite the fact that he is a political neophyte. [more]

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) announced his bid for president in Hope, Arkansas - his birthplace as well as the birthplace of former President Bill Clinton. Huckabee, who has hosted a show on FOX News over the last few years, unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 2008 after winning the Iowa Caucuses. He is a favorite among Christian conservatives but has been criticized by fiscally conservative groups like the Club for Growth. [more]

Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle a second time. In 2012, Santorum went from the longest of long shots to the last man standing against eventual nominee Mitt Romney. Santorum's 2012 campaign caught fire after he won the Iowa caucuses. Despite having been the 2012 runner-up, Santorum's 2016 campaign is once again considered a long shot. [more]

George Pataki, former governor of New York

George Pataki is the former three-term governor of New York who has flirted with the idea of running for president several times before. In a somewhat surprising move, Pataki announced late this month that he would join an already crowded field of Republican candidates for president. Pataki, who has been out of the national spotlight for several years, is barely registering in the polls. Pataki is an unabashed moderate who favors abortion rights and greater environmental protections. [more]

The horse race


Quinnipiac -- May 19-26, 2015

679 Republican or Republican leaning voters. +/-3.8% 

Jeb Bush  10%
Ben Carson  10%
Scott Walker  10%
Mike Huckabee  10%
Marco Rubio  10%
Rand Paul 7%
Ted Cruz 6%
Donald Trump 5%
Chris Christie 4%
Carly Fiorina 2%
John Kasich 2%

Fox News Poll -- May 9-12, 2015

413 likely Republican primary voters nationwide. Margin of error +/- 4.5%

Jeb Bush 13%
Ben Carson 13%
Scott Walker 11%
Mike Huckabee 10%
Marco Rubio 9%
Rand Paul 7%
Chris Christie 6%
Ted Cruz 6%
Donald Trump 4%
John Kasich 2%
Rick Perry 2%
Rick Santorum 2%
Carly Fiorina 1%
Bobby Jindal 1%
Lindsey Graham 0%
George Pataki 0%

Key Early States

Iowa -- April 25-May 4, 2015

667 likely Republican caucus goers in IA. Margin of error +/-3.8% 

Scott Walker  21%
Rand Paul  13%
Marco Rubio 13%
Ted Cruz 12%
Mike Huckabee 11%
Ben Carson 7%
Jeb Bush 5%
Chris Christie 3%
Rick Perry 3%
Rick Santorum 2%
Carly Fiorina 2%
John Kasich 2%
Bobby Jindal 1%
Lindsey Graham 0%

New Hampshire -- May 2-6, 2015
Bloomberg News

400 likely Republican primary voters in NH. Margin of error +/-4.9% 

Rand Paul  12%
Scott Walker 12%
Jeb Bush 11%
Marco Rubio 11%
Donald Trump 8%
Chris Christie 7%
Ted Cruz 6%
Ben Carson 5%
Mike Huckabee 4%
Carly Fiorina 3%
Bobby Jindal 1%
Rick Perry 1%
Rick Santorum 1%
John Kasich 1%
Lindsey Graham 1%

The money

Ben Carson has raised $6 million since launching his exploratory committee [more]

Ted Cruz Super PACs Raise $31 million in first week [more]
Jeb Bush Super PAC on Path to Raise $100 million by end of May [more]



Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) is planning on announcing his candidacy sometime in July. Longtime allies of the governor say there is no doubt that Kasich will join the already crowded Republican field. Former U.S. Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) signed on as the head of Kasich's New Day committee, and the group recently hired Sununu's former chief of staff to direct efforts in New Hampshire. [more]


$455,000 - As of March, Rick Santorum's previous run for President in 2012 was still $455,000 in debt.          


"Any giving I'm doing is going to be lower-profile and less-noticed." - Foster Friess, the billionaire who said he wouldn't be donating to a pro-Rick Santorum super PAC, as he did in the last presidential election. (AP



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