With former governors Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee cut from the varsity squad, the main stage will be a little less crowded at the next GOP presidential debate. Christie shot back with criticism over the handling of the cut, but both candidates will continue to fight at the upcoming undercard debate.
The field is crowded with presidential hopefuls on the GOP side of the aisle this election cycle, which has created problems for debate organizers. The solution, thus far, has been to split the candidates into an early debate and a prime-time debate based on poll numbers.
Since the first debate in August, there have been some important changes in the field. Carly Fiorina was promoted to the prime time slot after a strong showing at the first undercard debate of the year, while both Rick Perry and Scott Walker bowed out of the race entirely.
With new polls showing lower numbers for Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee, both men have been demoted to the kids table, where they will appear alongside other low-polling candidates such as Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum. Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki were knocked out of the debates altogether.
Newsweek reports that the cutoff to qualify for the main stage at the upcoming November 10 debate is cut and dry. In order to appear in prime time, a candidate must have garnered at least 2.5 percent of the vote on average in four recent national polls.
Chris Christie only saw about 2 percent support in a recent Fox News poll, which combined with polls from WSJ/NBC News, Investor’s Business Daily, and Quinnipiac, put him below the 2.5 percent threshold.
Other low-polling candidates, like Rand Paul, just barely managed to hang on to the main stage. According to the Wall Street Journal, Senator Paul was saved by a strong showing of 4 percent support in the most recent Fox News poll, which was enough to keep him in prime time.
Although he was removed from the prime-time debate, Chris Christie still qualifies for the undercard. In order to appear in the upcoming early debate Fox Business Network, candidates need to poll just 1 percent, rather than 2.5 percent.
Christie will appear on the early debate, but he and his supporters have questioned the methods used to separate the field. In particular, the validity of using an Investor’s Business Daily poll was called into question.
“IBD has only polled one other time this year, and they were completely off in that poll,” Chis Christie’s senior political strategiest, Mike DuHaime, wrote in a memo on the subject of the debate selection.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Christie polled just 1 percent in the Investor’s Business Daily poll, while he earned more than 3 percent in each of three more prominent surveys that Fox Business Network neglected to use for their criteria.
Although being removed to the undercard debate is an undeniable blow to their campaigns, Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee don’t appear phased. Christie vowed to bring a strong performance to the debate, regardless of which one they put him in.
— Chris Christie (@ChrisChristie) November 6, 2015
Mike Huckabee also informed Twitter that he is just happy to debate.
I’m happy to debate anyone, anywhere, anytime.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) November 6, 2015
Some Twitter users took the presidential hopeful up on his offer.
@GovMikeHuckabee Debate question #1: Are hotdogs sandwiches?
— Evan Weiss (@eaweiss) November 6, 2015
Thinning the herd will allow Fox Business News more time with each remaining candidate on the main stage, but sending Christie and Huckabee to the early debate is sure to make the undercard more interesting as well.
[Photo by Steve Pope / Getty Images]