Elections

Nine Republicans to debate on main stage Tuesday; Christie back

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey takes a question at a packed barn during a campaign stop in Wolfeboro, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey takes a question at a packed barn during a campaign stop in Wolfeboro, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) AP

Nine Republicans will vie in Tuesday’s presidential debate, as Chris Christie returns to the main stage.

National front-runner Donald Trump will be center stage, with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on his left and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on his right. Cruz has vaulted into the lead in Iowa polls, while Carson has faded since last month’s debate.

Also in the main event, hosted by CNN and scheduled to begin at 9 P.M. EST, will be Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Jeb Bush, former Florida governor: former business executive Carly Fiorina; Christie, the governor of New Jersey; John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Christie was bumped from last month’s debate because of weak poll numbers, but has since surged in New Hampshire, site of the nation’s first primary.

Paul was flirting with not qualifying, but a CNN account said he was “saved at the 11th hour by showing viability in Iowa” in a Fox News poll released Sunday.

Those with lower poll numbers will participate in a 6 P.M. EST debate Tuesday. They’ll include Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor; Rick Santorum, former U. S. senator from Pennsylvania; George Pataki, former governor of New York and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Pataki and Graham did not participate in the November debate.

The Tuesday debates, the final Republican forums of the year, will be held at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

To participate in the main event, candidates had to meet one of three criteria in polls conducted between October 29 and December 13 and recognized by CNN: Average at least 3.5 percent nationally; at least 4 percent in Iowa; or at least 4 percent in New Hampshire. This was the first time state polls were used to determine qualifiers.

CNN used surveys by ABC News, Bloomberg News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, Gallup, Marist University, McClatchy News Service, Monmouth News Service, NBC News, The New York Times, Pew Research Center, Quinnipiac University, Time, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Des Moines Register, the University of New Hampshire, WBUR and WMUR.

David Lightman: 202-383-6101, @lightmandavid

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