November 23, 2015
For the first time this election cycle, polls from early voting states will help determine who makes the main stage at the next Republican debate. That debate is scheduled for December 15th in Las Vegas and will be hosted by CNN, who has set the qualifying criteria.
Candidates that average 3.5% in national polls or 4% in either Iowa or New Hampshire in the weeks leading up to the debate will take the main stage. CNN says nine candidates would currently qualify: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie.
There will also be an undercard debate. Any candidate not making the main stage who saw at least 1% support in four separate national, Iowa or New Hampshire polls will make the cut. At this point, that list includes Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki.
If the above holds, Christie will return to the main stage after being relegated to the undercard in the Fox Business debate earlier this month. He has mainly outperformed the criteria in New Hamsphire. Graham and Pataki will get back on stage after also being excluded in the last debate. Jim Gilmore, who has only participated in one debate, will continue to be on the sidelines.
CORRECTION: The original version of this story said that Jim Gilmore had not been invited to any of the Republican debates. He was invited, and did particpate, in the undercard debate hosted by Fox News on 8/6/15.