The following editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer:
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina got a toehold on the running board of the Republican presidential clown car this week, making 15 GOP candidates who are in or seriously considering the 2016 race.
The unwieldy field just keeps growing, and with it the one-liners.
“It’s Friday. That’s one reason to celebrate,” says late-night comic Jimmy Fallon. “Also, it’s the first day in a long time when no one declared they’re running for president.”
Adds comedian Conan O'Brien: “The U.S. unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in nearly seven years. The job sector that has seen the most growth is in the field of Republican presidential candidates.”
Pundits seem exasperated that so many people are jumping into the race. Debate planners worry about how they'll fit everyone on to the stage. Fox plans on limiting its August debate to 10 candidates, leaving at least five, and maybe more, out. CNN is considering having a “varsity” debate with 10 candidates in September followed by a “JV” debate.
It’s messy, we get it. But average Americans ought to be embracing the idea of a long roster. We’re looking for a president, not a pet-sitter. Let’s make sure we conduct a thorough search for the best person for the job.
Many voters are rightfully frustrated that Hillary Clinton seems to be on the verge of a coronation, rather than earning the nomination. (Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders have slowed that notion only the slightest bit so far.) Those voters can’t in the same breath be frustrated that things are wide open on the Republican side.
We already have a system that discourages most of America’s 320 million people from running. Why should the press, or the Kochs or anyone else winnow the field down to one or two or three before the public even tunes in?
A crowded field allows for more debate, more perspectives, more honing of positions, more thought. Graham’s national-security platform instantly elevated differences with Rand Paul’s isolationist stance. Graham’s centrism on social and other domestic issues will contrast with those of Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum.
A lack of early name recognition shouldn’t render one unfit for office. And a sizable campaign bank account doesn’t qualify you to lead the free world. Iowa and New Hampshire – two sparsely populated, unrepresentative states – already have too much influence in naming the country’s next president. Let’s hear fully from everyone, and trust that the best leaders will emerge.
There will be gaffes, to be sure, and many of these candidates’ lack of qualifications will become apparent. But voters can feel a little bit better knowing they at least had a full slate from which to choose.