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.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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