The first Presidential Primary debate is set to air on Thursday, May 5th sponsored by Fox News and the South Caroline Republican Party. Fox News has released the requirements for any candidate wishing to appear in this debate and it will, at this point, limit the field quite a bit since it is locked down only to declared candidates with a formally filed exploratory committee.

Report from the Wall Street Journal:

Attention Republicans: Only declared candidates will get a spot on stage when Fox News hosts the first debate of the GOP primary down in South Carolina next month.

Fox News issued guidelines Monday for 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls who want to participate in the May 5 debate at the Peace Center in Greenville, S.C.

The only candidates who can participate are those who have launched an exploratory committee or formal campaign, filed all the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and the South Carolina Republican Party and paid all the necessary fees. Oh, and garnered at least 1% of the vote in five national polls and meet those pesky constitutional requirements, like being born in the U.S.

According to those guidelines, the field right now of potential candidates to appear at this debate is fairly slim. Here’s another report from the Los Angeles Times:

It’s slated to be the kickoff event of the 2012 Republican primary season. But as a scheduled May 5 debate hosted by Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party rapidly nears, it’s unclear whether any major presidential candidates will actually be there.

That’s because few of the likely contenders qualify to participate under the strict criteria laid out by the cable news network. Fox News acknowledged as much, last week quietly moving the deadline for candidates to qualify from April 29 to May 3.

“Because the field is forming so late this cycle, there are not as many polls as there were at this stage in previous cycles,” Michael Clemente, senior vice president of news for the network, said through a spokeswoman Monday. “In the interest of being as inclusive as possible, Fox wanted to make the deadline as close to the debate as possible in case there are late polls that may help candidates qualify for the debate.”

But even with the deadline pushed back, it appears doubtful there will be full roster of White House contenders on stage at the Peace Center in Greenville, S.C., next Thursday.

Of the likely GOP candidates that the state party recently announced were expected to participate in the debate—former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania — only Pawlenty and Roemer have filed paperwork with the FEC. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has also filed papers legally establishing his candidacy, has not said whether he will participate.

We’ll keep you posted on this one. Fox News and the debate organizes are basically saying “the show must go on” in the hopes that they will have a small handful of participants, enough to justify a broadcast. Here’s to hoping we can get some of these candidates on stage and discussing the issues.

We will follow this closely and post new information as soon as it is available concerning whether this debate will take place as scheduled on May 5th, 2011.