GREER – Using national polls to decide which presidential candidates to include in televised debates — as Fox News is doing — undermines the traditional role of South Carolina and other early-voting states in picking nominees, Sen. Lindsey Graham said during a campaign stop Monday.
Graham, who announced a campaign for the White House on June 1, said debate organizers should instead look at poll results in early-voting states as they seek to trim a crowded field enough to have a meaningful debate.
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The Republican White House hopefuls are competing head-to-head in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, not Texas or California, Graham said.
“We’re going where the early voters are, and you ought to look at how we’re doing in these early states, in my opinion, to understand how we fare vis-á-vis each other,” Graham said. “But this national polling process is just ridiculous.”
Fox News is scheduled to broadcast the first GOP presidential debate on Aug. 6 and has said it won’t include candidates who don’t have at least 10 percent in national polls by that time.
So far, national polls show Graham stuck in single digits.
he senator said he wasn’t worried about his own campaign in making the complaint, but thinks winnowing the field with national polling undermines the traditional role of early-voting states.
“I’m worried about the South Carolina primary,” he told reporters at the Honeywell International plant in Greer. “People in South Carolina need to fight for this spot we have. We’re the first-in-the-South primary. We really do shape presidential races and, for the most part, we get it right.”
Fox News has promised to provide additional airtime to candidates who don’t make the cut for the top-tier debate. A spokesman for the cable channel couldn’t be reached on deadline Monday to respond to Graham’s comments.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Monday became the 11th Republican to announce a presidential campaign.
Graham pointed to a national poll released Monday that gave him 2 percent, tied for 11th place in a field of 16.
The survey by New Jersey’s Monmouth University found retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson in first place with 11 percent.
The poll’s margin of error was 5.2 percent, plus or minus, which means “I literally could be tied for No. 1,” Graham said.
Graham told about 30 employees at the Honeywell plant, a defense contractor, that his top priority is trying to reverse the defense cuts known as sequestration.
He also reiterated his support for the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which finances overseas sales of U.S. companies such as Honeywell.
The company’s Greer plant makes engine parts for military and civilian aircraft and the Army’s Abrams tank. It also services and repairs engines for double-rotor Chinook helicopters used by the U.S. military.
An executive at the plant told Graham that 25 percent of its business is supported by the Export-Import Bank.