- Thomson Reuters
The criteria for the third Republican debate next month could lead to a shakeup in which candidates make the main stage.
CNBC, the host of the third GOP debate October 28 in Boulder, Colorado, released its qualification criteria Wednesday.
After speculation the network might ax the lower-tier debate, CNBC announced the network would host two debates.
The main, primetime debate will include candidates averaging at least 3% support in polls released between September 17 and October 21. CNBC said candidates with an average of 2.5% would be rounded up to 3%.
A separate, earlier debate would feature candidates who register at least 1% support in one major national poll during the same time period.
Though a small tweak, it could alter the debate landscape. Several candidates are teetering on the edge of qualification.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) barely qualifies for the main stage debate – as the Washington Post notes, Paul is at 2.8% among the polls that have been released that CNBC will be including in their average.
Polls from CBS and ABC, which will presumably be released before the debate in October, could tip Paul into the early debate or put him solidly in the top tier.
According to the current Real Clear Politics average, Paul’s support has dropped below 3% to 2.3%, though this metric includes some polls that will not be counted. By the same metric, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, at 3%, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at 3%, both barely make the cut.
Some of the lower-polling candidates in recent days had pressed the Republican National Committee to not nix the “undercard” debate.
In a letter to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus obtained by Business Insider, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) campaign manager, Christian Ferry, urged the RNC to ask CNBC for a second debate, citing the fact that early polls are not always indicative of eventual nominees.
The RNC – which declined to comment when Business Insider inquired earlier on Wednesday about the possibility of a single debate – praised CNBC’s decision to host two debates.
“We have the most diverse and experienced field of candidates in history and we applaud CNBC’s efforts to ensure that all of our top candidates will have an opportunity to share their views with the American people,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.
The lower-tier debate on CNBC will take place at 6 p.m. Eastern Time. The second, main-stage debate will follow at 8 p.m., and the network said it would go on for two hours.
According to a CNBC press release, the contest will focus on “job growth, taxes, technology, retirement, and the health of our national economy.”