Back in 2011, with the Democratic nomination already in President Obama’s hands, five Republican presidential candidates spoke at the National Association of Manufacturers presidential candidates’ forum in Iowa. This year, organizers were hopeful the Nov. 2 event would be even bigger, with both Democratic and Republican nominations up for grabs and PBS News Hour's Judy Woodruff lined up to moderate the forum.
“It’ll be interesting to see how many candidates we have by then,” NAM president Jay Timmons joked at the time, referring to the arm’s-length list of Republican candidates. “How long this forum could be. It could be we invite people to bring tents to camp out. It could be the Woodstock of political forums.”
But yesterday NAM gave word that the event was cancelled.
By mid-October, only Republican candidates Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina had publicly signed on to attend the Presidential Candidates Forum on Manufacturing, a NAM source said.*
Was the cancelation a reflection on the candidates’ lack of interest in manufacturing? NAM would only say that scheduling conflicts derailed the plans.
“With the field of candidates so large and their time so stretched, as currently scheduled the forum would not include a diverse, bi-partisan, cross-section of viewpoints represented,” Erin Streeter, NAM senior vice president, communications, said in a written statement. “Because of this challenge, the NAM decided to cancel the event.”
Susan Ramsey, communications director for Iowa Public Television, which was broadcasting the event, said that the station was planning on carrying it and covering it live, but sometime in October NAM told them it was canceled.
The forum has been replaced with a series of TeleForums where individual candidates answer questions “from members of a coalition of major nationwide business groups.” The first, scheduled for Nov. 4, features Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio. Unlike the canceled forum, the Teleforum will not be a publicly broadcast event. No other candidates have been announced yet, but candidates from both parties maintaining at least 4% in the Real Clear Politics poll by Labor Day have been invited.
NAM President Jay Timmons shared his excitement about the public candidates’ forum back in July in an interview with IndustryWeek.
“Four years ago it really gave candidates the chance to talk about manufacturing priorities,” he said then. “A number of candidates have talked about the importance of manufacturing, or have demonstrated through there public service their commitment to growing the manufacturing economy.
“We’ve heard from many candidates that manufacturing is a priority for them, and to his credit the current occupant of the White House has also indicated that manufacturing is a priority. I would probably disagree with some of his policy prescriptions to grow the manufacturing economy, but we’re appreciative that he at least acknowledges it’s an important part of America’s competitive advantage and exceptionalism.”
*Correction: Initially, NAM said only Santorum announced his participation, but corrected that later to add that Fiorina also had planned on participating.