Preparing for a Debate of 10 With a Forum of 14

NYT FDMaggie Haberman 8/3/2015

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Good Monday morning from Washington, where the Senate is considering defunding Planned Parenthood and where President Obama will articulate a new climate change plan that is sure to spur discussion on the campaign trail. This week, the trail leads past one of its first significant markers, the initial Republican debate. But first …

How do you get to the Fox News debate? Practice, practice, practice.

The first widely broadcast Republican presidential debate will be hosted in Cleveland on Thursday evening, by Fox News and Facebook. But on Monday night, 14 members of the sprawling Republican field will get a practice run at a forum hosted by C-Span and three early-state news outlets.

The “Voters First Forum,” to be held at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, is a response by the first three states — New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina — to the Fox News debate, which is restricted to the candidates averaging in the top 10 slots in the polls.

In reality, having more than 10 people on the stage was an unwieldy prospect for many cable networks hosting debates. Still, early states worry about their clout diminishing.

Only three of the 17 candidates won’t be at the dry run, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader: Donald J. Trump, who declined the invitation, Mike Huckabee and Jim Gilmore.

Jeb Bush, who has not run for office since 2002, is among those who could best benefit from a Trump-free environment, giving him a chance to find his footing.

But the absence of Mr. Trump also means that the candidates won’t get to road-test their approaches to him on stage.