In somewhat of a direct response to the decision of limiting the first Republican debate to only ten candidates, a group of newspapers in early caucus and primary states will be sponsoring a forum for all 2016 Republican candidates on August 3, 2015. The event, dubbed the “Voters First Forum,” will take place in New Hampshire and be broadcast nationally on C-SPAN.


Report from The Hill:

C-SPAN is partnering with a handful of regional newspapers in early-voting states for a nationally televised forum with the Republican presidential candidates just days before Fox News Channel’s first scheduled debate.

The network has invited all 17 of the GOP presidential hopefuls to the Aug. 3 Voters First Forum in New Hampshire.

Publishers at the New Hampshire Union Leader, The Post and Courier of South Carolina, and Iowa’s The Gazette say the forum was prompted in part by Fox’s controversial decision to cap the number of candidates in its Aug. 6 debate at 10.

“Fox says only the ‘top’ 10 candidates, as judged solely by national polling, will be allowed on its stage,” the publishers said in a joint statement. “That may be understandable later, but the first votes are half a year away and there are a lot more than 10 viable candidates.”

“The early primary process gives all candidates a chance to be heard,” they continued. “If networks and national polls are to decide this now, the early state process is in jeopardy and only big money and big names will compete.”

The statement reflects the concerns of many Republicans, who say the national media and unreliable early polls shouldn’t play a role in determining the top tier of candidates in a year when the GOP has a deep and diverse field.

So far, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and former New York Gov. George Pataki have committed to the C-SPAN forum.

Of those, only Carson is currently a lock to participate in the Fox News debate. The rest of the candidates will be working to raise their poll numbers to qualify for a spot on the debate stage.

The C-SPAN forum will be hosted by WGIR radio’s Jack Heath, who hosts “New Hampshire Today.” The candidates will take turns answering questions in five-minute segments.

I imagine that a majority of the candidates will confirm for this event. If you’re a front-runner, why give national screen time to the candidates nipping at your heels without you there to rebut. As a “forum,” instead of a “debate,” the format will be less confrontational and geared towards more of a “Q & A” format where candidates won’t spend much time addressing each other.