The qualifications for the Republican presidential debates are becoming stricter as the primary season enters the voting phase.
ABC on Wednesday released criteria for candidates to qualify for its debate on February 6 in New Hampshire, three days before the state’s primary.
The steep barriers are likely to lock out several candidates.
To qualify, candidates need to do one of three things: place in the top three in the Iowa caucuses; place in the top six nationally; or place in the top six in New Hampshire in an average of select national polls released by February 4.
Polls could shift dramatically in the next week. But currently, such criteria would exclude Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania).
As CNN reported, the Republican National Committee and the network appear poised to nix the early, “undercard” debate for those who poll too low to qualify for the main stage. ABC’s criteria did not mention a separate, undercard debate.
Thursday’s Republican debate, hosted by Fox News, could serve as a final proving ground for a handful of Republican candidates attempting to break into — or stay in — the top tier. But some candidates have proven that being excluded from the main-stage debate doesn’t necessarily constitute a campaign death sentence.
Though Paul did not make the main stage for the Fox Business GOP debate earlier this month, the senator made the most of the situation by booking a media tour through New York and live-streaming his own campaign event simultaneously.
Signs showed this strategy worked. The campaign estimated that the numerous television and radio appearances put the senator in front of a much larger audience than a participating in the “undercard” debate would have.
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