Dog days of sum­mer

The Covington News - - OPINION - JACKIE GINGRICHCUSHMAN COLUM­NIST To find out more about Jackie Gin­grich Cush­man, visit www.cre­ators.com.

The an­cient Ro­mans coined the phrase "dog days" based on the pe­riod of time that the bright­est star (Sir­ius, the Dog Star) rose and set in con­junc­tion with the sun. The Ro­mans be­lieved that Sir­ius ra­di­ated heat to the Earth, caus­ing the hottest part of the year as it trav­eled with the sun.

The date range for the an­nual "dog-day" pe­riod varies based on the source. The Old Farmer's Al­manac refers to the 40-day pe­riod that be­gins July 3 and ends Au­gust 11. The 1552 Book of Com­mon Prayer refers to the pe­riod from July 6 to Au­gust 17. Many ref­er­ences ex­tend the "dog-day" pe­riod into Septem­ber.

The dog days are pop­u­larly be­lieved to be a time of ag­i­ta­tion and un­ruly be­hav­ior. This past week's news sto­ries pro­vide a glimpse into cur­rent sources of high lev­els of ag­i­ta­tion: the Greek debt cri­sis, po­ten­tial Fed­eral Re­serve rate hikes, tech­ni­cal is­sues at the NYSE, hack­ing into gov­ern­ment data, air­lines be­ing grounded and more. A lot of these ac­tiv­i­ties ap­pear to sig­nify move­ment, but not move­ment for­ward.

In pol­i­tics, too, there is fre­netic ac­tiv­ity, with polls re­port­ing rapidly chang­ing stand­ing on the Repub­li­can side of the ac­tion.

"Trump se­cured 17 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the Suf­folk Univer­sity/USA To­day sur­vey. For­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gar­nered 14 per­cent, while the rest of the 2016 field re­mained in sin­gle dig­its: Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker, the new­est en­trant to the race, was at 8 per­cent; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 6 per­cent; Florida Sen. Marco Ru­bio at 5 per­cent; Ken­tucky Sen. Rand Paul, re­tired neu­ro­sur­geon Ben Car­son and for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee at 4 per­cent; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 3 per­cent," wrote Theodore Sch­leifer on CNN.com on July 14. "And about one-third of GOP vot­ers — 30 per­cent — re­main un­de­cided about who they will back."

Though we all know that polls of­ten do not re­flect fi­nal votes, they ap­pear to be play­ing a larger role than nor­mal among the Repub­li­cans gear­ing up for the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

This year, the RNC an­nounced it has scaled back the de­bate process, to "limit the num­ber of de­bates, spread the de­bates across the coun­try by sanc­tion­ing no more than one de­bate per state, al­lo­cate the de­bates over the course of seven months, in­clude a larger con­ser­va­tive media pres­ence and al­low cam­paigns to know and plan for the de­bate sched­ule early."

The goal: to pro­tect the even­tual Repub­li­can nom­i­nee and to gain more con­trol over the process. Ac­cord­ing to a Jan. 16 Politico ar­ti­cle by James Hohmann and Alex Isen­stadt, the changes went be­yond lim­it­ing the num­ber of de­bates. "To give their push to con­trol the de­bate process teeth, the party an­nounced Fri­day that any can­di­date who par­tic­i­pates in a de­bate that isn't sanc­tioned by the RNC will not be al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in any more sanc­tioned de­bates," they wrote. "A ques­tion cloud­ing the ef­fort has been whether media or­ga­ni­za­tions and cash-strapped can­di­dates des­per­ate for free air­time would go for­ward with unof­fi­cial de­bates, un­der­cut­ting the whole process."

This week the New Hamp­shire Union Leader, the lead­ing news­pa­per in the state, posted this an­nounce­ment on its web­site: "A Vot­ers First Fo­rum for Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, co-spon­sored by the New Hamp­shire Union Leader and lead­ing news­pa­pers in Iowa and South Carolina, will be held on Mon­day evening, Aug. 3, at the New Hamp­shire In­sti­tute of Pol­i­tics at St. Anselm Col­lege. It will be broad­cast na­tion­ally by C-SPAN as well as by spon­sor­ing Iowa and South Carolina TV sta­tions."

Will there be reper­cus­sions from the RNC for those can­di­dates who par­tic­i­pate? Af­ter all, it is a fo­rum, not a de­bate. Can­di­date-friendly su­per PACs are get­ting into the game early to make sure their can­di­dates have a chance to par­tic­i­pate in the sanc­tioned de­bate.

As Ni­cholas Confessore wrote this week in The New York Times about the su­per PAC sup­port­ing for­mer Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, "The su­per PACs, known as Op­por­tu­nity and Free­dom, are in­vest­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in advertising on the Fox News Chan­nel and other ca­ble chan­nels to raise Mr. Perry's pro­file."

"We've al­ways sort of viewed his an­nounce­ment though the de­bate as a phase one," said Austin Bar­bour, ad­viser to the su­per PACs back­ing Perry. "We want to do ev­ery­thing we can do to be­gin the rein­tro­duc­tion to vot­ers in Iowa, par­tic­u­larly, but also help him qual­ify for the first de­bate."

It will be in­ter­est­ing to watch the in­ter­play of the RNC, na­tional polls, su­per PACs and cam­paigns dur­ing the re­main­ing dog days of sum­mer — the ag­i­ta­tion and un­ruly be­hav­iors have just be­gun!

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