- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2015

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is slamming the format for the first Republican presidential debate to be held in August, in which the top 10 candidates in recent public polling will be allowed on stage.

“These rules are arbitrary, irrational, and — I believe — bad for our party and our country,” Mr. Santorum, who announced his candidacy last month, wrote in a Friday email to supporters.

Mr. Santorum said polls are “meaningless” at this stage, pointing out his come-from-behind win in the 2012 Iowa caucuses and wins in 10 other states in that year’s GOP presidential nominating contest.

“I believe that we should have an inclusive process,” Mr. Santorum wrote. “If you’re a United States senator, if you’re a governor, if you’re a woman who ran a Fortune 500 company and you’re running a legitimate campaign for president, then you should have the right to be on the stage with everybody else.”

The Republican National Committee has tried to rein in the debate process after 2012, and RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said in a memo this week that both Fox News and CNN, which will host the first two debates, have announced their criteria “historically early.”

The debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in September will feature two parts — one comprised of the top 10 candidates in recent polling and another among candidates falling outside the top 10.

“It’s clear that they will be the most inclusive primary debates ever as they will allow for the maximum number of voices to participate in the process,” Mr. Spicer wrote in the memo.

“[A] number of people have asked whether particular candidates or potential candidates will be included,” Mr. Spicer wrote. “With more than 60 days before the first debate, that’s like asking on Opening Day who’s going to make it to the World Series. For anyone to suggest that any candidate is in or out at this point is ridiculous. We are fortunate as a party to have a historic number of diverse, experienced and qualified potential candidates that could serve as our nominee.”

The top 10 candidates and potential candidates, according to Real Clear Politics’ average of recent public polling, are: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, businessman Donald Trump and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Those outside the top 10 include Mr. Santorum, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

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