CNN says participants in a South Carolina Democratic debate need to meet two criteria: A third-place of better finish in a contest sanctioned by the Democratic Party, and a showing of 5% or better in a national poll. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) failed both tests and was excluded from the lineup. According to Cleveland.com, he has protested this to the FCC, claiming that CNN is setting up arbitrary benchmarks, and ignoring his recent 4% showing in two recent polls.
CNN claimed it set up its criteria without regard to any candidate. Kucinich claims instead that the guidelines were drawn up specifically to silence his own campaign.
RBR/TVBR observation: Handling legitimate political disputes can be a very tricky matter for the media, but at this point in the campaign, we believe CNN has a point. Many believe that Kucinich’s second run for the White House, like the first, has largely been about acquiring a media megaphone for his own political views. There is nothing wrong with that, but in both cases he failed to attract significant financial backing, grassroot or otherwise, and even more to the point, he has failed to attract votes. We don’t know where the line should be drawn when deciding who on the guest list for these debates, but we find it hard to make a case that CNN is out of line.
Regardless, we don’t think this case comes within the jurisdiction of the FCC. Kucinich may as well file a complaint with our dog. Although the pooch is utterly apolitical and therefore uniquely qualified to offer an unbiased ruling, we don’t think he will be able to offer much in the way of help, either. But if the candidate holds a biscuit in his hand while making his case, he is certain to have the canine’s rapt attention.