Crowded GOP race leaves little room for policy specifics

Alexander Chase

With a third GOP debate on the horizon next Wednesday, likely Republican voters have yet another chance to decide who best represents them. However, the crowded field of candidates is guaranteeing a long battle to make that choice.

Republican candidates have not had the time to paint a full picture of themselves on a national stage. Right now, Marco Rubio has less debate time than Martin O’Malley. According to the British website, a conglomerate of various bookie organizations, Rubio is a consensus 2/1 favorite to win his party’s nomination. O’Malley is a 100/1 long shot to win his.

Voters need to trim the field to hear more developed policy positions. Yet paradoxically, no candidate has had the time to stand out by delivering those positions.

Candidates only have enough time to gloss over topics. Those who have spoken about repealing the Affordable Care Act, for example, have not indicated how they would replace it. On the question of Russia, most candidates have spent their time stating disagreement with Obama, rather than explaining how they would deal with Putin.

Beyond lack of depth, not every candidate is asked to address every topic. At the CNN debate, only Ben Carson and Scott Walker were asked to discuss the minimum wage. Less than half of the candidates were asked to discuss their tax plans. Moderators are giving candidates a pass on topics that are outside their comfort zone, and leaving voters entirely uninformed on their potential weaknesses.

For students in particular, this missing information is crucial. Students need to know how candidates will tackle college affordability or make it easier for them to find well-paying jobs after graduation. A vague guarantee of jobs does not satisfy this expectation.

Fixing this means starting to thin the crowd, which seems to be an impossible task right now. CNBC invited the same field of candidates as CNN (excluding Walker, who has since dropped out) after all ten met its requirements. Despite the issues this presents, government professor Daron Shaw said media outlets are right to continue inviting large fields.

“The field of candidates polling between 4 and 7 percent is too muddled right now,” Shaw said. “If you invite Rubio, you have to invite Jeb, and so on. They have no reason for them to trim from 10 to eight.”
Right now, a smaller field seems unlikely. With nothing driving candidates out of the race, Shaw said only the long primary season seems likely to pare down the contenders. One can only hope that by the time Texas students go to the polls, they know what their votes will get them.

Chase is a Plan II and economics junior from Royse City. Follow Chase on Twitter @alexwchase.