Fiorina May Appear in CNN Debate After All

Carly Fiorina

Photo courtesy of Carly Fiorina campaign

Fiorina May Appear in CNN Debate After All
| published September 2, 2015 |

By Keith H. Roberts, Thursday Review contributor

CNN adjusted the guidelines it plans to use to determine the eligibility of candidates for the next Republican debate, scheduled for September 16. Candidate Carly Fiorina may be the biggest beneficiary of that change.

The amended rules reflect increasing pressure by some candidates, especially the supporters of former HP CEO Fiorina, to create more flexible criteria for candidates who have seen their poll numbers rise or fall in the crowded GOP field. There are currently 17 major candidates in the Republican race. Donald Trump maintains a wide lead over the other candidates, with Dr. Ben Carson in second place.

In the previous debate held in Cleveland in early August, based on agreements between Fox News and the Republican National Committee, only those candidates whose composite polling numbers placed them in the top ten were allowed to debate in the prime time event. The polls were conducted only days ahead of the debate itself, and reflected a narrow window of time. The seven candidates who did not make that final cut were invited instead to participate in a separate debate late in the afternoon, hours ahead of the main debate.

Whereas Fox used only a brief snapshot of polling data, CNN had originally said it would use polling numbers collected from July 16 through September 10. Instead, CNN will revamp this to only include newer polling conducted after August 6—numbers which will now reflect the highly fluid nature of the race. CNN will retain the “early” and “prime time” debate arrangement as planned.

The move will no doubt help Fiorina, whose poll numbers have risen dramatically over the last few weeks. But the change could adversely impact other candidates, including Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, both of whom have seen slippage in support. CNN’s modifications may also make it more of a challenge for the previous top tier candidates, including Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker, all of whom have also seen their numbers drift slightly downward as Trump, Carson and Fiorina—all non-politicians—gain ground.

The next debate will take place inside the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, site of a previous GOP debate in 2008. Both the Republican National Committee and spokespersons for the Fiorina campaign endorsed the changes announced by CNN. CNN has said it will announce its decision on the morning of September 10, only hours before the debate will kick-off.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Next Debate May Force Gilmore & Perry to Sidelines; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; August 11, 2015.

First GOP Debate: Playing the Trump Card; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; August 7, 2015.