The criteria for the next Republican debate could shrink the debate stage to just six candidates, potentially pushing John Kasich, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul out of the main event and into the undercard debate, POLITICO has learned.
According to debate criteria that were to be announced Tuesday, host Fox Business Network will consider both early-state and national poll results in deciding which candidates make the prime-time forum. That main debate will feature candidates who place in the top six nationally, based on an average of the five most recent national polls recognized by Fox News, or place within the top five based on an average of the five most recent Iowa or New Hampshire state polls recognized by the network.
The polls being considered must be released prior to 6 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, Jan. 11, and be conducted by major nationally and state recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques, such as live interviewers and random digit-dial sampling techniques using both landlines and cellphones.
There’s no limit on the number of candidates on the main stage. But according to POLITICO calculations based on only the national polling available as of Tuesday, the prime-time debate stage would include Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Chris Christie.
Anything that helps push Kasich back to Ohio (has he mentioned recently that he’s from Ohio?) is a win for America. Criteria that help Jeb! continue tilting at windmills are just cruel, and delaying his inevitable enjoyment of the Florida winter. Half the entertainment value of these things is watching Trump deal with Bush, so the networks may keep tweaking things to allow him to stay well past his electorate expiration date.
There has been some grumbling online recently about the undercard debate, as many people feel they’re just helping the bottom-rung candidates cling to a nonexistent dream. The networks will continue airing them as long as they are getting viewers. In the case of the next debate, if FBN didn’t do the undercard, campaigns and constituencies would be lobbying them to just expand the number of people on the prime time stage, citing the fact that Jeb! and Christie aren’t that far ahead of Carly and Rand. It’s less of a headache for them to just air two debates, as well as an easier advertising sell.