Election 2020

CNN GOP Debate Criteria Give Disproportionate Weight to Iowa and New Hampshire Polls

Drums along the Mohawk ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)


Republicans have three ways to make the cut for the main stage of their fifth presidential primary debate, sponsor CNN announced Thursday.

Candidates must meet one of three criteria in polls conducted between October 29 and December 13 and recognized by CNN: An average of at least 3.5% nationally; at least 4% in Iowa; or at least 4% in New Hampshire.

The debate is Tuesday, December 15 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Right now, nine candidates would make cut for the Republican National Committee sanctioned debate at The Venetian in Las Vegas: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Paul is on the bubble for the debate. He clears the national hurdle of 3.5%, but doesn’t average 4% in either of the first two states to vote in the 2016 nominating process.

Christie would make the main debate stage as of Friday — but he did not qualify in the last GOP debate, hosted by Fox Business Network.

CNN also announced that it, along with Facebook and Salem Media, will hold a second debate for Republican candidates who don’t make the cut for the main stage.

Sure, we all expected the field to be smaller at this time, but here we are, dealing with a bunch of Super PAC staying power, one candidate with a sweetheart donor, and some dude named Pataki.

It would be very good for Christie to get back to the main stage, as he has been generating a little more buzz this past week regarding national security (not an endorsement, just mentioning what I’ve seen).

The real question here is whether this CNN offering will be better than its Reagan Library debate. Jake Tapper was awful, spending most of his time trying to get the candidates sparring over personal jibes about each other rather than delving into policy. The presence of Hugh Hewitt didn’t really serve as a balance, and it is hard to imagine him outweighing the nonsense we’re sure to get from the vapid duo of Blitzer and Bash.

We’ll just have to content ourselves with the absence of Candy Crowley.