Up to this point, inclusion in the primary debates has been dictated by a candidate’s standing in national polls. For the upcoming CNN Republican debate on December 15, the primetime debate criteria has been expanded to also include candidates polling at least four percent in Iowa or New Hampshire. The undercard debate will be back once again with the remaining candidates appearing during the earlier hour.
Report from Politico:
The criteria for CNN’s December presidential debate include a new way for candidates to make the stage: early-state polling strength.
Candidates can qualify for the debate through one of three ways: polling averages nationally, in Iowa, and in New Hampshire.
While every previous debate has only used national polling, candidates who average at least 4 percent in either Iowa or New Hampshire polls will make the stage in Las Vegas, according to the standards CNN released Friday. Candidates who average at least 3.5 percent in national polls between Oct. 29 and Dec. 13 will also qualify.
According to CNN, nine candidates would currently make the cut: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie.
Christie missed the last main Republican debate, but he has always polled more strongly in New Hampshire than elsewhere. Christie has not gotten less than 5 percent in any of the qualifying polls. Carly Fiorina’s and Sen. Rand Paul’s numbers place them on the bubble, making them the two candidates most in danger of falling to the undercard debate stage.
The undercard debate will also live on, despite some calls among Republicans to begin phasing this out. Candidates who reach at least 1 percent in four separate Iowa, New Hampshire or national polls will make the earlier debate.
As of Friday, that stage will be made up of Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and two candidates who missed the last GOP debate entirely, Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Gov. George Pataki. As of Friday, Gov. Jim Gilmore did not qualify for either stage.
Right now, we’re looking at about nine candidates on the main stage by bumping Christie back up from the undercard debate based on his New Hampshire Polling. As noted, Paul and Fiorina are in danger of dropping off but I doubt that will happen since the polling period is from Oct. 29 to Dec. 13, a long time frame which isn’t going to change much unless there is a very dramatic shift in polling over the next three weeks.
CNN hasn’t provided exact details such as what time each debate will air, so far the main debate is tentatively set for 9pm ET, though that could change as we get close to December 15.