As you likely know, Fox News will host the first official Republican primary debate on Thursday, August 6, at 9pm ET. However, the debate is being limited to only the top ten candidates in an average of five national polls. Those qualifications will leave some six to eight candidates out of the primetime slot. As a result, Fox is holding what they’re now calling the “early debate” at 5pm ET which will include every major candidate who did not qualify for the 9pm ET debate.

Report from The Hill:

Fox News will expand its lower-profile debate to all declared candidates outside of the top 10, instead of reserving the stage for only those polling at least 1 percent nationally.

Michael Clemente, Fox News’s executive vice president, first told Politico in a statement that the network made the decision based on “overwhelming interest” and will include any candidate “consistently being offered to respondents in major national polls, as recognized by Fox News.”

“Everyone included in these debates has a chance to be President of the United States and we look forward to showcasing all of the candidates in the first primary event of the 2016 election season,” he said.

Fox has not yet released the polls that it will use to determine the standings and decide who will take the stage in the top debate and who will be relegated to the second-tier debate. But the decision means that candidates hovering toward the end of the crowded field won’t be shut out if Fox uses polls that have them below 1 percent.

Both debates will take place on August 6, 2015.

So here is the revised schedule for August 6:

5pm ET – Lower tier debate (Candidates outside top 10, 1 hour)
9pm ET – Upper tier debate (Top 10 candidates, 2 hours)

A RealClearPolitics average of recent polls has all candidates polling at least 1 percent in national polls except for Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and former Gov. George Pataki (N.Y.).

As for the top debate, Donald Trump, former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.), Gov. Scott Walker (Wis.), Sen. Rubio (Fla.), former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.), Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) and Gov. John Kasich (Ohio) round out RCP’s current top 10.

That leaves former Gov. Rick Perry (Texas), former Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.), Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.) and Carly Fiorina on the outside looking in, as well as Graham and Pataki.

Fox News recently shifted the early debate to the more attractive 5 p.m. slot instead of hosting it at 1 p.m. but shortened the debate from 90 minutes to one hour.

The top 10 will debate at 9 p.m. for an hour and 30 minutes, plus commercials.

One hour isn’t much, but being at 5pm and turned into an actual secondary debate is better than where it started which was a “forum” at 1pm in the afternoon.

Also, I’m surprised they’re only giving the primetime candidates 90 minutes instead of a full two hours. That 90 minutes also includes commercials leaving each candidate at most six to eight minutes of answer time.


The 90 minutes does not include commercials. The debate runs from 9pm ET to 11pm ET with commercials. So approximately 90 minutes of debate, 30 minutes of commercials. The earlier debate runs from 5pm ET to 6pm ET.


  1. Are you sure? “an hour and 30 minutes, plus commercials,” should mean that they will debate for an hour and a half “in addition to” the commercials. They should have said, “minus,” if the commercials are subtracted from the scheduled time. [But that would assume they know how to write.]

    But, yeah, not much time.

    I would like to have seen just two candidates at a time, for say, a half hour each, in round-robin style. With 16 candidates, that would only have taken four hours. I would have scheduled “debate week,” pitting contenders of like stature:

    Monday: Trump-Christie (Screamers) and Bush-Paul (Likely Winners)
    Tuesday: Walker-Kasich (Mwest Govs) and Huckabee-Santorum (Biblethumpers)
    Wednesday: Rubio-Cruz (Cubans) and Perry-Santorum (Weirdos)
    and, of course:
    “Token-Thursday:” Jindal-Carson (Ethnic) and Fiorina-Pataki (Woman, Liberal)

    Imagine, sitting them down at a table, and just let it fly for a half-hour at a time, with the “moderator” only there to hand out Band-Aids® and tourniquets.

    • I’d also like to see something like that, but with four people, for two hours for each group (no commercials).

      When you have three or four people you can have as many approaches to an issue which promotes more discussion. When you have just two people it is very easy for people to drop into “Me vs. Other Person,” talking-heads style.

      It would also be far more interesting to have people mixed so that you have different viewpoints, approaches, and experience. Imagine something more like this:

      Trump (Brash, Aggressive, Business Person), Carson (Soft Spoken, Evangelical, Doctor), Ted Cruz (Excellent Debater, Supreme Court Experience, Anti-Establishment), Scott Walker (Executive Experience, Fought Unions and Won). THAT would be interesting, especially the Trump vs. Cruz dynamic.

      Then: Chris Christie (Brash, Aggressive, Executive Experience), Rand Paul (Libertarian, Laid Back, Legislative Experience), Carly Fiorina (Business Experience, ???), Huckabee (Evangelical, Executive Experience, Moderately Progressive). A business person, a governor, a libertarian, and an evangelical walk into a bar…

      Then: Kasich (Executive Experience, Record of Job Growth), Santorum (Has to Go Somewhere, I Guess), Jindal (Executive Experience, ???), Rick Perry (Executive Experience, Experience with Border). Three governors here, but from very different states facing very different issues. Santorum is a “whatever” because he has to go somewhere.

      Then: Bush (Executive Experience, Name Recognition, ???), Pataki (Fairly Progressive, Executive Experience), Marco Rubio (Legislative Experience). The problem here is I see all three of them as kind of similar, really, except Bush has better name recognition.

      But does the world really need another Bush? Even the Republicans (the voters, not the establishment people) don’t want him.

      A Clinton and a Bush are running for office… A dinosaur movie is #1 in the box office… A Terminator movie is coming soon… Wait, what year is it again?

      • Really like your idea. I would love to watch the first group, and then be able to watch and/or read the transcripts online for the other groups at my leisure. I think folks would learn far more about the candidates in this type of format.

  2. So do these folks realize that they’ve been relegated to being effectively the ‘warm-up act?

    • I think it’s odd that people who spend half their time claiming the media are the devil incarnate have handed their entire candidate selection process over to one media outlet. Why not just call it the “Fox Party”?

      • Rather similar to those who campaign on the idea of ‘Government is broken/evil; vote for me’ schtick.

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