Hugh Hewitt: RNC Should “Exile” Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, and Ron Paul from Future Debates

In reading Doug Mataconis’ recent post about pundits on the Right ignoring the presence of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson in the first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign and my subsequent listening and reading of many of the same pundits who have since mocked Ron Paul for daring to say such things as the war on (some) drugs has been a failure, I am reminded of the famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

It seems to me that the anti-liberty forces on the Right aren’t all at the same stage, however. Some want to ignore Ron Paul and Gary Johnson while others simply laugh at them. Conservative radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt seems to have moved past the ignore and laughing stages and on to the fighting stage. How exactly does Hewitt wish to fight: by silencing what he calls the “marginal” candidates.

This is why the GOP needs to rethink its debate schedule and why the RNC should take over the operation of the debates and exile Cain, Johnson and Paul as well as every other candidate without a prayer of winning. (Santorum is a long shot, but he has a realistic though small chance of winning the nomination, while the others do not.) The seriousness of the fiscal crisis requires the GOP and its candidates to act seriously, and allowing marginal candidates to eat up time and distract from the enormous problems facing the country is not serious.

Apparently, it’s not enough for Hugh Hewitt that the Fox News moderators focused most of their serious* questions and attention toward “long shot” Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty. No, the very presence of Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson distract from the “important” issues facing our country.

On electability
Marginal candidate Herman Cain placed second in a Zogby Poll that came out Tuesday, largely due to his performance in the debate that Hewitt says he had no business taking part.

Marginal candidate Rep. Ron Paul has won the CPAC presidential straw poll two years in a row. According to a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, Paul trails Barack Obama in a head to head race by 7 percentage points while “serious” candidate and Hewitt favorite “Mandate Mitt” Romney trails Obama by 11.

Marginal candidate Gary Johnson, like Herman Cain, doesn’t have the name recognition (until recently maybe for Cain) that some of the top tier candidates have. This reason alone could explain why he hasn’t polled well so far. But as Johnson himself points out, when he ran for Governor of New Mexico in a state that votes 2-1 Democrat he didn’t have the name recognition either. He was told back then that could never win but Johnson got the last laugh when he beat the incumbent governor by 10 percentage points.

Cain, Paul, and Johnson may be long shots but I wouldn’t go as far to say they “don’t have a prayer” of winning the nomination. One advantage of being a long shot is they can say what they really think about the issues while the “contenders” have to be cautious – which leads me to my next point.

On “marginal candidates eat[ing] up time distract[ing] from the enormous problems facing the country”
Moderators and interviewers can only do so much to get straightforward answers from candidates. The top tier candidates should actually be grateful to have candidates like Cain, Paul, and Johnson in the primaries to challenge them. The eventual nominee will be battle tested for the general campaign since s/he has already had to offer alternative answers to challenging questions about taxation, entitlements, foreign policy, etc.

If Herman Cain says our government should replace the income tax with the Fair Tax, the other candidates have to explain why the income tax should remain in place or offer another alternative. If Ron Paul says that our government needs to stop policing the world and audit the Fed, the other candidates have to explain why our government should continue to police the world and continue to keep the activities of the Fed secret. If Gary Johnson argues that from a cost/benefit approach the war on (some) drugs has yielded much greater cost than benefit, the other candidates have to explain where Johnson is wrong in his analysis.**

Far from being a distraction from the important issues, Cain, Paul, and Johnson can focus the debate in such a way that would be otherwise not possible. Of course this assumes that the debate moderators give all the candidates a chance to respond.
Hewitt made one other point that needs to be challenged:

When the first tier of GOP candidates gather to discuss how to begin to fix the mess we are in, the voters deserve to hear the problems and the solutions fairly and fully talked through, and done without the interruption of the 1%ers with agendas unrelated to defeating President Obama in November, 2012.

Hugh, it’s still very early in this campaign, relax! Part of the reason that some of these candidates are 1%ers is because they lack name recognition (i.e. who are these people?). These 1%ers at least deserve a chance to introduce themselves to primary voters. Even as closely as I follow politics, there are quite a few names I’ve heard recently attached to individuals I know nothing about. Honestly, I know very little about the GOP field overall – at least those who didn’t run in 2008. I’m quite sure I am not alone.

And yes, the 1%ers probably have agendas besides defeating President Obama in 2012. If you want to be honest though, this is probably true for all the candidates. The more crowded the field, the more difficult it is for any candidate to win the nomination. A presidential primary is a perfect opportunity to speak about issues one cares about in a larger marketplace of ideas than normally possible. It’s not unusual for the eventual nominee to adopt some of the positions of his primary rivals in the general campaign (so in a sense, one’s issues are as important as winning the nomination…unless it’s only about ego).

But isn’t talking about having an agenda besides beating Obama in the general putting the cart before the horse just a little bit? I’m quite sure that if Cain, Paul, or Johnson actually won the nomination, beating Obama in 2012 would become the primary objective. They each have their own vision for this country.

The truth is, I think, you don’t want Cain, Paul, or Johnson in the debates because you are an establishment guy not because they are 1%ers. You don’t want to see any of these men in the debates because they are a threat to the status quo of the Republican Party (this is probably more true of Paul and Johnson than Cain though Cain would still be an outsider). I don’t believe for a minute that if any of these men became contenders you would suddenly welcome them in the debates.

It’s my hope that the RNC doesn’t take your advice seriously.

  • Cal Elson

    You would think the Republican Party would want to welcome everyone interested in helping them beat Obama in 2012, or at least make them feel like they had a part in selecting the eventual nominee.

    Who is Hugh Hewitt to pick who has a chance and who doesn’t? Isn’t that up to the voters? Ron Paul was called a long shot in 2008, but he ended up finishing ahead of supposed top tier contenders like Giuliani and Thompson. He also attracted thousands of young activists to the Republican Party, giving them some hope of a future.

    Herman Cain may not have political experience, but he seems intelligent and qualified. Let’s hear what he has to say.

    Gary Johnson isn’t a household name, but then neither is Pawlenty, and Johnson’s record as governor is a heck of a lot better.

  • Cal Elson

    Cain and Johnson may be “one percenters”, but Ron Paul certainly isn’t. He hit double digits in several states last time, and is much better known now. National polls have him at 5 to 10 percent right now, and the campaign is just starting.

  • American citizen

    Ron Paul 2012 presidential election

  • Liberty4America!

    Johnson 2012!

  • Akston

    “The seriousness of the fiscal crisis requires the GOP and its candidates to act seriously, and allowing marginal candidates to eat up time and distract from the enormous problems facing the country is not serious.”

    This is, of course, why any debate should only be populated by “mainstream” contenders like Senator “the fundamentals of the economy are strong” McCain, not marginal candidates like Congressman “I warned you all about this in 2002” Paul.

  • JP

    This is a joke. I’m an expat living in Asia and I am seriously considering flying back for a few weeks just to campaign for Dr. Paul. A “marginal” candidate? Stuff like the slandering of Ron Paul makes me feel the real presence of evil in this world, how people can sell their souls at the price of their fellow man makes me sick.

  • TheConspiracyTheory.. Theory

    >Cain and Johnson may be “one percenters”, but Ron Paul certainly isn’t.

    It appears to me more every day that the people we have been calling “RINO’s” for the past few years actually represent mainstream Republican policies and leadership.

    Although these 3 are not leaders within the party they do represent the sensibilities of a great many Americans, and yet a great many more Americans who are unacquainted with them. That makes these guys dangerous to both the republicans and democrats. I think its clear that Hugh’s objective from the getgo here is to marginalize and attack the credibility of these three candidates. The strategy is simply to co-opt the tea-party, and wavering independents back into the fold.

    Electing a republican isnt good enough for these guys, it has to be someone that will continue the work of the Bush(es), Clinton and Obama.

  • Eric

    Paul is the only candidate who will NOT change his views based on what’s popular or appealing. He’s been called “the most honest man in politics” and has a voting record against the mainstream that stretches for decades. He takes his lonely position because he understands the constitution better than any possible presidential candidate, and that’s exactly why he won’t budge on any issues.
    Go Ron Paul!

  • Liquidify

    Sounds like an excellent analysis. One thing I would point out is that last primary Paul was in the double digits in quite a few states, and overall he received somewhere between 6 and 9 percent of the republican primary votes. He is by no means a 1%’er. I suspect he will gain even more votes this year due to his media team being better this time around. Also, the “favored” republican candidates are all terrible. If more people listen to him and watch him in debates, he will attract a larger audience.


    Read the slander going on at the LA Times!!

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  • NadePaulKuciGravMcKi

    “honesty compassion intelligence guts”

    very few Republicans fit the bill
    very few Democrats fit the bill

  • NoTribe

    Gary Johnson is going to show his appeal, crossover to independents and Libertarians (both D & R) when the voting starts. Before then, I hope that he raises the funds. Who knows, Paul could always drop out.

  • Tom Rankin

    Three years ago nobody ever heard of the Federal Reserve or Ron Paul.

    Today 80% of the people want to Audit the Federal Reserve and Ron Paul is a household name.

    Fiat money and the Federal Reserve enable Big Government. End the Federal Reserve and Fiat money and you will end Big Government. That why they fear Dr. Paul.

    Ron Paul 2012

  • Don Wood

    I couldn’t agree more with you! A DEBATE should be held where everyone has to answer the same question!

    As for me, I’ve drawn my line in the sand. I have always voted my conscience and I will do so again. Therefore, I will vote for Liberty and Dr. Ron Paul. I do not vote for the “lesser of TWO evils.” I have heard from others who feel the same. Vote for CONSCIENCE not COMPROMISE! If conscience cannot win the country, compromise will finish its job of making the country unfit for dogs.

    Ron Paul 2012!

  • Jerre

    With the exception of RP they rest of the so called front runners are what I call “Bald Tires”. Do not qualify even for retreads.
    Ron is the most consistent politician that I have observed during my 75 years.
    He also is a high school classmate and always the real deal. Class president etc. Its Time.

  • HewittIsANazi

    Hugh Hewitt is a nasty little fascist that loves to demagogue and distort the facts to protect the GOP establishment. Anyone who wants to shut down debate is an anti-American piece of garbage. Hewitt is the kind of hypocrite that wails about Democrats imposing a “fairness doctrine” but he has no problem with controlling speech and controlling ideas in the GOP. I bet that little scumbag wears swastika underwear.

  • Black Swan

    Hewitt reminds me of the hierarchical incrementalists we have in our Fortune 250 firm that defend the utterly broken status quo through the belief that “minor tweaks with sustenance in the overall framework” in the metaphysical myth that brought us to near destruction are all that are necessary.

    Like Cain’s executive experience, we’ve been undergoing a necessary-yet-radical transformation of what was a hugely bloated, ineffective and slowly dying corporate hegemon. Most middle management had erected VP and director-level silos, walled off and heavily guarded. Country operations were balkenized, with no transparency across borders; in fact, those who dared cross borders usually were shot at. Risks were carefully concealed, exposed only when it was too late, and the risk-causing executive was long gone.

    The more I understand the state of our Federal government, the more I realize it has gone down the same path, yet suffers greater danger given the addiction to a Treasury that has the unconstrained capacity to pour in funds (through borrowing, printing ala quantitative easing aka bureaucratic easing, etc.).

    As such, the defenders of this monstrosity (e.g. Hewitt) who believe minor fixes will repair a structurally flawed Leviathan will naturally, initially write off transformative executives, also framing them in the lens of “not necessary” and finding their post-structural language of radical reform to be incoherent and non-resonant with the biopolitical Beltway dialect.

    Reform is coming, and it will come from outside the Beltway. The more the insiders resist, the greater their misfortune and extent of demise will become when the inevitable eventually occurs. Innovator’s Dilemma author Clayton Christensen and others have argued for willful creative destruction as a force to revitalize but sustain some relationship and ownership over the radical reform process. Should the RNC and other elites continue to reject the inevitability of tea party resonant transformation, it’ll be fortunate to be merely tossed to the trash heap of history.

    Treat these candidates seriously and recognize what their arising-within-the-party means for rebirth, rather than replacement.

  • Stop NationalDebt

    For small government candidates to have a chance and not be laughed at and excluded, the public needs to truly “get” how bad US finances are. The public yawns when it hears $trillions in debt thinking “big number, but its a big country”. since they have no perspective. We need to rephrase the issue:

    The federal government will need >$1 million per household to pay its IOUs!
    > $116 trillion =”official” debt plus money  short for future social security, medicare, etc
    Even its “official debt” of $14.2 trillion  is $123,754 per household!
    Details at with links to contact congress & complain.

    “POLL REVEALS: Americans Are Still In Deep Denial About The Deficit” If they realized how bad it is politicians would need to act.

    So be among the first to join the new Facebook cause “Stop National Debt” :
    since if you don’t spread the word, who will?
    We need to spread the word virally to educate non news-junkies.

  • Ali

    Ron Paul HAS this! He nailed it! GO Ron!!! 2012!

  • Brad Warbiany

    For those of you advocating “ONLY Ron Paul” or that Paul is the only candidate with integrity, I recommend you check out Gary Johnson. I think you’ll be impressed with him as well.

    As for Herman Cain, I came away from last week’s debate less than impressed. He’s espoused too many things that make him far more of a tea party guy, and far less libertarian.

    I’ll support Paul or Johnson, but as far as I’ve seen from the Republican field, that’s about it.

  • givejonadollar

    I would like to see Hewitt’s students boycott him over this remark. What an idiot.

  • seguin

    Frankly, I think we’re blessed to have Paul, Johnson, and Cain running in the Primaries. If more than one is left by the time for Texas’ primary, I’ll have a hard time choosing.

    Last time I only really had Paul, with maybe Fred Thompson as a backup.

  • David Klepinger

    I know why Hewitt has it in for Herman Cain. He wrote a book entitled “FairTax Fantasy” where he tries to distort the truth about the FairTax, which Herman has been advocating for over a decade. Guys like Hewitt definitely support the status quo and are the ones that really should be removed from the debate.

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  • TruthSayer

    We are going to need to see that Birth Certificate before you do…

  • TruthSayer

    “This is a joke. I’m an expat living in Asia and I am seriously considering flying back for a few weeks just to campaign for Dr. Paul. A “marginal” candidate? Stuff like the slandering of Ron Paul makes me feel the real presence of evil in this world, how people can sell their souls at the price of their fellow man makes me sick.”

    Oh Ya the Comment I was Replying to =)

  • Earl


  • Cato

    I argued it in 2008 and I will argue it again, if this total disrepect for Paul, Johnson and the libertarian/liberty wing of the GOP continues, it it time to pull the plug on the GOP and we all move to a third party, whether the LP or a new entity. The GOP would be destroyed nationally and/or simple evolve into a neocon/theocrat party that can advocate a return of The Crusades!

  • Stephen Littau


    That’s certainly a strategy many libertarians will likely take but I think we should do the opposite. I think the Republican Party is ripe for a hostile takeover of libertarians. I was at first a little irritated that Ron Paul decided to run again because I feared it would draw support that might otherwise go to Gary Johnson (my preferred choice). After seeing the first debate how the moderators ignored Johnson (much like they did Paul in 2008) I think that having 2 libertarians run make it harder for the libertarian message to be ignored. I would like to see another libertarian or two run as a Republican to balance out the Socialcons and Neocons.

    That’s phase 1.

    If/when neither Paul nor Johnson (or some other acceptable libertarian leaning candidate) gets the nomination, then it’s time to support the LP in the general campaign.

  • Judson

    I will not be voting for Obama again. I will vote for Johnson. I have talked with other Democrats, and I think some of them feel the same way. If any Republicans are actually listening, you are going to need splinter Democrats to beat Obama, Ron Paul is not going to get them. Gary Johnson will.

  • Tony

    When I read that, I gasped. Hugh Hewitt is a moron. EVERYBODY get the pitchforks and torches, its time to mob up and run the elites outta town!