Frank Fahrenkopf, the former Republican National Committee chief and co-chairman of the CPD, has repeatedly promised that the CPD would announce its polling criteria for 2016 a year in advance of the debates. Knowing those criteria is essential for any significant independent candidate making a decision on whether to run - because if you aren't in the final debates, you can't get elected president. And, over the past two decades, the CPD's rules have kept such independents out.
A decision a year in advance is late and puts independents at a big disadvantage to Democrats and Republicans, but now even Fahrenkopf's own deadline has passed.
Monday night we learned why.
A bombshell has dropped in the polling world: Gallup's editor-in-chief, Frank Newport, has said that his organization will not conduct polls for the presidential primaries in this election cycle and may not engage in polls tracking the general election next year.
As Steven Shepard reported Tuesday in Politico:
"It's a stunning move for an organization that built its reputation on predicting the winners of presidential elections. But it comes at a time of unusual tumult in the polling world. Other top-level brands like the nonprofit Pew Research Center have yet to poll the horse race, and still others have expressed concern about the accuracy of polling at a time when fewer people are reachable or willing to talk to pollsters."
But what makes Gallup's decision to skip presidential polling all the more shocking is that Newport is the very same pollster that the CPD has employed since 2000 to implement its polling debate criteria. He's also the man who recently testified under oath in support of the CPD's exclusive use of polling by saying the following:
"Public polling is by far the best method of measuring a candidate's support among the electorate prior to Election Day. Polling involves a scientific process through which polling experts seek to determine, mathematically, the best estimate of the public sentiment on a particular topic at a specific point in time...The science of public polling is constantly evolving as the methodology continues to improve."
Newport's revelation contradicting his sworn testimony puts the CPD in a quandary and explains its nearly two-week delay in releasing its official 2016 eligibility criteria.
What is the CPD going to do? Get another pollster to disagree with Gallup? How can that possibly be credible?
Several members of the group Change the Rule, including former legislators like Sen. Bob Kerrey, Reps. Lee Hamilton and Vin Weber, and Gov. Tom Kean, have proposed rejecting polling as a criterion and instead instituting a national online primary that will determine one winner at least six months before the election. This would give the winning independent enough time to develop sufficient name recognition to compete with the Democratic and Republican nominees. Another proposal focuses on gathering signatures across the country - the means that every state uses to determine ballot access (none uses polling).
It is inexcusable for the CPD to continue to run out the clock on independent candidacies by delaying the release of its criteria. No independent candidate can mount an effective presidential campaign without knowing if the fall debates will be open to him or her.
Not only has the promised deadline passed, but the rules the CPD has used since 2000 for exclusion of independent candidates are no longer supportable.
It's clear that polling - whatever the numerical threshold - no longer meets the proper standing for determining debate access - if it ever did.