Tales from the Trail

Roemer camp pressures networks, pollsters in search of “Roementum”

December 30, 2011

Former Louisiana governor and Republican presidential hopeful Buddy Roemer is turning up the heat on his opponents: polling companies and national television networks. Roemer, who was in Congress longer than Michele Bachmann and was a governor for as long as Mitt Romney, has yet to be invited to a single Republican debate. That’s because the national television networks determine who gets invited to their debates based on a shifting set of polling criteria, and they have yet to set their criteria low enough to include him.

Roemer, who has staked his entire candidacy on New Hampshire, has two last chances in the New Hampshire debates slated for next Saturday and Sunday, sponsored by ABC and NBC respectively.

“It’s usually the big guys in New York or DC who make the decisions,” says Carlos Sierra, Roemer’s spokesman. “It’s going to be disappointing if we don’t get into the last two debates.”

At the rate things are going, it looks like Roemer could very well be watching the debates on television again. Sierra says both NBC and ABC have set the minimum polling threshold at 5 percent either nationally or in New Hampshire — though it’s unclear which surveys they’ll consider (ABC and NBC News spokespeople didn’t immediately return calls).

Roemer’s campaign claimed “Roementum” when a Public Policy Polling survey released yesterday put him at 3 percent in the state, tied with Rick Perry and Rick Santorum (the margin of error was ±3.4 percent). That came on the heels of a Suffolk University poll giving him 2 percent in the state in mid-December, essentially tied with Santorum and Perry and just behind Michele Bachmann.

One of Roemer’s biggest problems is that he can’t get included in many polls. The recent CNN/Time poll ignored him, and even PPP didn’t include Roemer in its mid-December survey. Roemer has been calling polling agencies to complain; so far only PPP has been receptive to his pleas.

This means that Roemer’s last stand is going to come even before the primary. Right now his campaign is betting everything on faring well in a WMUR/UNH Survey Center poll due to be released January 6. That’s one day before WMUR (an ABC affiliate) co-sponsors a Republican debate–if Roemer is at 5 percent in the station’s own poll, or even if he remains tied with or ahead of Santorum, Perry or Bachmann, it could be awkward for ABC to exclude him.

The WMUR/UNH poll is so vital that Sierra says the campaign has designed its limited television and radio buy to coincide with the days next week when the pollsters will be calling New Hampshire residents.

The good news for Roemer is that the UNH Survey Center has been including him in its polls for several months. The bad news is that a Boston Globe-sponsored poll conducted by UNH in mid-December showed him at less than one percent, according to Andy Smith, the center’s director.

Credit: Former Louisiana governor Charles ”Buddy” Roemer speaks at a news conference announcing his presidential exploratory committee for the 2012 Republican nomination in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, March 3, 2011. Reuters/Lee Celano

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