No matter how you slice it, it’s hard to give each candidate meaningful time in a debate when you have 10 candidates on stage. Well, as Fox Business Network just announced, that’s about to change for the fourth debate next week.
And not just one, but two, candidates will be missing from the main stage when GOP hopefuls take the stage Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
As the New York Times reports:
When the Republican presidential hopefuls take the stage in Milwaukee on Tuesday night for their fourth debate, familiar faces will be missing from the prime time lineup — Mike Huckabee and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.
On Thursday, Fox Business Network, the host of the debate, announced on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” the qualifiers for the main stage, and Mr. Christie and Mr. Huckabee — who had been slipping in recent polls — did not quite make the cut.
To qualify for the prime-time debate based on the network’s criteria, candidates needed to score at least 2.5 percent or higher in an average of the four most recent national polls through Nov. 4. Those below the 2.5 percent average in the polls could qualify for the so-called “undercard” debate, as long as they hit at least 1 percent in at least one of the four most recent national polls.
Dropping off the main stage is a huge blow to Mr. Christie, who has struggled to gain the traction for which he’d hoped ever since announcing his bid, and who saw his “tell it like it is” message inadvertently usurped by Donald J. Trump’s freewheeling, tell-it-like-it-is campaign.
Mr. Christie seemed prepared for the news, tweeting within seconds of the announcement that “it doesn’t matter the stage, give me a podium and I’ll be there to talk about real issues like this,” with a link to his now-viral video speaking about drug addiction.
For Mr. Huckabee, it’s another example of his inability to gain the same traction among evangelicals that helped fuel his rise in 2008.
The next debate will be Fox Business Network’s first debate. The network has already been promising a more substantive, policy-focused face-off than that of CNBC, who came under criticism for a debate that many Republicans said focused too much on “gotcha” questions.
While Christie and Huckabee indeed have languished in the polls, Christie in particular was highlighted — even by conservative Republicans typically not fans of his — as having a strong performance in last week’s debate. But apparently that wasn’t enough of a boost for him to make the cut.
He’ll join Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum on the undercard stage. Lindsay Graham and George Pataki did not make the cut for either debate this time.
Meanwhile, on the main stage will be Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul and John Kasich.
If Christie or Huckabee was your personal pick, no doubt you’re disappointed by the news. But objectively, the thinning of candidates on stage is a positive step toward allowing Americans to get to know the frontrunners better as we inch closer to the first caucuses and primaries, now less than 100 days out.
Now, we can only hope the folks over at Fox Business Network do a better job moderating than CNBC. Something tells me that’s not going to be hard.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]