Fox Business Network, host of the next Republican debate, has announced the line-ups for the undercard and primetime debates. Governor Chris Christie and former Governor Mike Huckabee have both been bumped down to the undercard debate for a total of four candidates. There could have been six or seven candidates on the undercard stage, but Senator Lindsey Graham and former Governors George Pataki and Jim Gilmore failed to qualify due to low numbers. Jim Gilmore has not been invited to the last two undercard debates on CNN and CNBC.
Christie and Huckabee are the first top contenders to be bumped down to the undercard debate. The undercard debate does have less viewers, although it did cause a positive impact for Carly Fiorina when she appeared in the first undercard debate. Analysts will be watching Christie and Huckabee’s numbers following the debate to see if they continue to decline.
There was already some controversy brewing from a sitting Senator not being invited to the debate. Graham’s competitor, former Governor Jeb Bush, criticized FBN for not including Graham.
Disagree with debate rules that prevent @Grahamblog‘s voice from being heard – his foreign policy message is an important one in particular
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) November 6, 2015
Many have criticized the use of polls to determine debate inclusion and selection. Due to the large amount of candidates, most are in the low single digits and tenths of a percentage point could separate a candidate from another. In addition, the margin-of-error causes many candidates to be in statistical ties, although this has been largely ignored.
The primetime debate will include the top eight candidates, which could allow for more speaking time for each candidate. However, Christie’s demotion could cause less fights and fireworks. The seating arrangement, also determined by polling, has caused Bush, Senator Marco Rubio, and frontrunner Donald Trump to all be sitting next to each other. The three of them have been fighting the most over the past few months as Rubio and Trump have risen and Bush has fallen.
The inclusion was based off pre-announced criteria. FBN used the four most recent polls — Fox News, Quinnipiac, NBC/Wall Street Journal, and Investors Business Daily– and candidates had to get at least one percent in one of the polls to be included. Graham, Pataki, and Gilmore failed to reach this threshold. The division was then determined by an average. Candidates in the primetime debate had to have an average of at least 2.5%. Christie and Huckabee both had an average of 2.25%. While the .25% seems insignificant, they would have needed to increase their poll numbers by at least one full percentage point because it was divided by four.