As you likely know, the first Republican debate, sponsored by Fox News, is coming up on August 6, 2015. Fox is using an average of five national polls to determine which ten Republican candidates will appear on stage. Given how the polling is currently shaking out, we can begin to see what the candidate list may look like.

According to analysis from POLITICO, there are at least three candidates in the safe area:

Very Likely
1) Jeb Bush
2) Scott Walker
3) Marco Rubio

Bush, Walker, and Rubio, given recent polling trends, are all-but guaranteed a spot on the stage given how well they’re doing nationally. The remaining seven spots are still up for grabs and here is a possibility of how they shake out. Some of this is considering the current RealClearPolitics average as well as analysis from the aforementioned POLITICO story.

4) Ben Carson
5) Donald Trump

Carson has displayed staying power and continues to hover pretty strongly in national polls. Donald Trump has only continued to increase his polling strength since his June announcement and the two of them are likely to be on stage in Cleveland.

6) Rand Paul
7) Mike Huckabee
8) Ted Cruz
9) Rick Perry
10) Chris Christie
—– Cut-off—–
11) Rick Santorum
12) Carly Fiorina
13) John Kasich

14) Bobby Jindal
15) Lindsey Graham
16) George Pataki

In case of a tie for the tenth spot, an eleventh spot will be added to accommodate another candidate.

As you can see, the “toss-up” list is lengthy and we won’t know until days before the debate which candidates can crack the top ten. POLITICO makes a good argument that John Kasich, with a planned 2016 announcement on July 21, stands a good chance of getting enough of a bounce to clench the tenth spot if he’s lucky.

Seeing Rand Paul’s name in the “toss-up” list, based on his polling average, is pretty stunning given how strongly he was running just six months ago. Since that time, he has taken a lot of incoming fire from the national security hawks and has hit somewhat of a ceiling in national polls. I’d be inclined to put him in the “Likely” list but his polling still leaves the possibility he could be bumped, though I very much doubt it. In reality, it is all dependent on which polls are used to generate the average. The same holds for Ted Cruz, who I also expect to see on the debate stage.

POLITICO mentions this and brings up the pertinent questions surrounding the currently-unknown selection of polls Fox will use to create the list:

While Fox News hasn’t outlined the exact criteria, the cable network says it will pick the top 10 from an “average of the five most recent national polls, as recognized by Fox News leading up to August 4th at 5 PM/ET,” Fox News Executive Vice President Michael Clemente announced in May. “Such polling must be conducted by major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques.”

Because Fox has been vague about the criteria, it’s unclear which polls will be included. Does “standard methodological techniques” mean the polls must be conducted by live telephone interviewers? Automated phone polls wouldn’t help cull the field, since they can ask about only 10 candidates in the first place. But most observers think Fox is precluding polls conducted via the Web from being part of the average.

Will the network use only its own surveys and those from the other national news organizations (such as the ABC News/Washington Post and NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls)? Or will that also include polls from academic institutions with a national footprint?

The schools with major polling arms aren’t even clear whether their surveys will be part of the average.

Since we don’t know which polls will be used, as Fox hasn’t released that information, the lineup will not be finalized until possibly the day before the debate.


  1. Pushing for Jindal & Florina on stage!!! Their voices are substantive and important! People, even if you don’t support a candidate as 1st or 2nd choice, the SUBSTANCE of what they all have to say is important. We need their knowledge. Think of it this way…the more SUBSTANCE we can get from ALL these candidates the better for whoever comes out on top. The fact that we have such a broad field is awesome. It broadens the conversation. I really hope we get a chance to hear from ALL these candidates in a debate forum. RNC do what you have to, to give them all a voice! The opportunity is too good to be wasted! BE CREATIVE RNC!!!

    Also really hoping they are all talented enough to avoid slamming each other. It’s not that difficult to answer an inflammatory question with something like, “Here’s what I think.” without pandering to special groups by belittling or disavowing anyone.

    Too bad we can’t have them all in the Oval Office!

  2. I hate to say it, but in a debate with 10 very qualified candidates (or 9 + Donald Trump), it may be better for some of the Toss up names if they DON’T get into the “A” group. Having essentially a personal ad slot at 1 PM on a Thursday obviously isn’t ideal, but if used wisely it’s a great opportunity to get a good sound byte or 2 out there and circulating prior to the debate. 9 PM on the east coast isn’t a great slot either for a Thursday night as far as mainstream publicity goes, especially on a non-network channel, and with 9 other people to compete with for time, it’s pretty likely a few of these guys get lit into without much chance for rebuttal.
    And just an editorial, but it’s very unfortunate IMO that the RNC is finding the need to “censor” candidates now for the sake of appealing to Dems/Independents, when the things being said ARE in fact what the Republican base is concerned about. Donald Trump is not the most elequent speaker, but he makes some great points, and I would hate to see the RNC shut him down like they have Rick Santorum just because it offends some people that would never, ever vote for a Republican in the first place. There are a lot of Republicans out there that stayed at home last election because we nomiated a bland, robotic immitation of the party’s values, and not a lot of people could really get behind him and put hard work into puttin him into office, and in the end it didn’t even help garner any fence-sitter votes. I hope they do not make that mistake again and attempt to be apologetic for what the party truly stands for just because of an obnoxiously vocal opposition.
    Not saying opposing views are obnoxious, but the liberal social media frenzy of late and attitude of “I don’t agree with what you think, so now I have to slander you or pressure someone to take financial/legal action” is absolutely ridiculous. I still can’t find that clause in the 1st amendment where your right should be forfeited if someone gets angry at you…

  3. Isn’t this funny that Scott Walker only declared a run for president on the 13th of July and this article dated the 7th already has him in the top three. Something fishy here. You just can’t be considered until you declare.

    • Jim, that’s because it’s based on the polling numbers, which has included his name, among others, for six months or more.

      Also, he actually filed his FEC papers earlier in July becoming a declared candidate. He waited until the 13th to to a formal kickoff event. That was on July 2:

      The Fox News rules for this debate also state that a candidate must be filed with the FEC accordingly, have staff in certain states, etc… so if a candidate didn’t meat those requirements, they wouldn’t be allowed to debate regardless of where they showed up in the polls.

  4. A contest where the rules aren’t determined until the race is already run? Sure, that sounds fair. Fox might as well just say we (Fox News) will pick Roger and Rupert’s 10 personal favorote candidates to participate and forget the polling completely.

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