While Fox News simply decided to cap the number of candidates participating in the first GOP debate, on August 6, to ten candidates (eleven if there is a tie for tenth), CNN has decided to devise an entirely different system which actually splits the field into two separate debates on the same night.
CNN released the rules outline in this document (PDF):
The first 10 candidates – ranked from highest to lowest in polling order from an average of all qualifying polls released between July 16 and September 10 who satisfy the criteria requirements outlined in this document will be invited to participate in “Segment B” of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate. In the event of a tie for 10th place, the tiebreaker will be an average of all qualifying polls released between August 26 and September 10. The second tiebreaker will be an average of all qualifying polling conducted in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada released between July 16 and September 10.
Candidates who satisfy the criteria and achieve an average of at least one percent in three national polls, but are not ranked in the top 10 of polling order will be invited to participate in “Segment A” of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate.
So to keep this straight, their “Segment B” will be the top-tier candidates, while “Segment A” will be the rest who hit the 1% polling mark. CNN also notes that if the number of candidates who qualify overall for the debate are 14 or less, they will limit Segment B to only eight candidates and the rest will spill over to the second tier Segment A.
The way CNN has chosen to divide it up gives a fairer shot to every candidate rather than the rough cut which Fox News has set in place. The only thing I’m waiting to hear is how long the CNN debate will last and how much time will be devoted to “Segment A” versus “Segment B.”