CNN is amending the criteria for its Republican presidential debate on September 16, possibly opening the door for Carly Fiorina to join the other top-tier candidates on the stage.
The cause: a lack of national public polling following the August 6 debate has so far provided only three new polls to determine the lineup for the Reagan Presidential Debate, according to a CNN statement.
As a result, CNN reevaluated its criteria and decided to add a provision that better reflects the state of the race since the first Republican presidential debate in August, the network announced Tuesday.
Now, any candidate who ranks in the top 10 in polling between August 7 and September 10 will be included.
The adjustment may result in additional candidates joining the top-tier debate, but the final podium placements will not be known until the eligibility window closes on September 10.
“In the event that any candidate is polling in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls released between August 7th and September 10th, we will add those candidates to our top tier debate, even if those candidates did not poll in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls between July 16th and September 10th,” CNN said in a statement. “We have discussed these changes with the Republican National Committee and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and they are fully supportive.”
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus endorsed CNN’s decision on expanding the number of candidates participating in the second segment of the debate if they qualify.
“I applaud CNN for recognizing the historic nature of this debate and fully support the network’s decision to amend their criteria.”
CNN, which is telecasting the Republican National Committee-sanctioned debate, released criteria for the debate May 20 that outlined specific polls and a timeframe to determine eligibility for this event. As of Tuesday, only three polls recognized by CNN have been released, and it appears there will not be enough to make a fair editorial judgment before the September 16th debate, according to the network.
The network said that from August through mid-September 2007, there were 16 polls released. During the same period in 2011, 15 polls were released. Based on previous poll releases, CNN created its original criteria.
“In May, we announced criteria for our September 16th Republican debates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,” CNN said in a statement. “We said that we would use the average of approved national polls from July 16th through September 10th to determine the makeup of the debates. At the time, we expected there to be many more national polls following the first Republican debate, in August, than there appears there will be.”
CNN continued, “We learned this week that there will likely be only two more polls by the deadline of September 10th. In a world where we expected there to be at least 15 national polls, based on historic precedent, it appears there will be only five. As a result, we now believe we should adjust the criteria to ensure the next debate best reflects the most current state of the national race.”
If the eligibility window closed today, CNN’s analysis of polls conducted from July 16 shows that Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich and Chris Christie would qualify for the top-tier debate. With today’s change, Fiorina would also qualify for the top-tier debate.
Fiorina, who aggressively lobbied for a change in debate rules, found out about the news while appearing on Meghan McCain’s radio show to discuss the guidelines.
“Literally as we’re speaking, I just got a text that CNN has amended their GOP debate criteria,” she told McCain.
Fiorina praised the move, saying, “It’s pretty clear that I’m in the top five, and so I think they made the right decision based on the data, which clearly has shifted in my case dramatically.”
But the network noted it remains unknown precisely who will participate in the debates until September 10.