The first Republican debate of 2016 could feature only six candidates.
FOX Business Network, the sponsor of the January 14 debate in North Charleston, South Carolina, announced that to qualify for the main stage, candidates would have to either:
–Place in the top six in an average of the five most recent national polls recognized by FOX News or
–Place in the top five in Iowa, site of the first caucus, according to an average of the five most recent Iowa polls recognized by FOX News or
–Place in the top five in New Hampshire, site of the first primary, based on an average of the five most recent state polls recognized by FOX News.
Currently, the top six candidates, according to poll averages compiled by RealClearPolitics, are real estate mogul Donald Trump; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Seven other candidates trail nationally, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.;Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former business executive Carly Fiorina. They and others would wind up on the undercard, an earlier debate. Paul is currently sixth in Iowa, while Kasich is sixth in New Hampshire.
The announcement said the polling “must be conducted by major nationally and state recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques (i.e., live interviewers, random digit-dial sampling techniques and include both landlines and cell phones).” Candidates will have to have at least 1 percent in one of the five most recent national polls to qualify. Polls must be conducted and made public before 6 P.M. EST January 11.