Fiorina Could Get Debate Spot After CNN Relents

Outcry leads network to change its mind
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2015 4:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – Up until this afternoon, it was looking like Carly Fiorina would be left out of CNN's Republican prime-time debate Sept. 16—even though Public Policy Polling's current polls put her at 10%, good enough for fifth among all GOP candidates, as Adweek reported. That's because the network was planning to use debate criteria that, in the words of the New York Post's Rich Lowry, "couldn't be more harmful to her if she had shot CNN honcho Jeff Zucker's dog." The former Hewlett-Packard CEO's current polling numbers are thanks to a recent surge after her standout performance in the Fox "kids' table" debate, but CNN was planning to use polls that date back to mid-July, a time when Fiorina was regularly polling under 2%. After outcry, however, CNN decided today to change its criteria, the Hill reports.

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Now, CNN will choose the participants based on an average of recognized polls between Aug. 6 and Sept. 10, which, the Hill notes, will likely help Fiorina more than any other candidate. But the old criteria (an average of polls from July 16 through Sept. 10) is still the base cutoff, meaning Fiorina won't bump anyone who qualified for the debate under that criteria. Before the change, Fiorina was battling Chris Christie for the last of the 10 spots in the upcoming debate, and Christie's supporters were doing everything they could to make sure he won out, spending $1 million on TV ads in the lead-up to the debate. A former Romney strategist predicted to the Hill that CNN would relent and change its own rules to let her in. After all, as Lowry wrote, "Who can object to a debate that features the current top candidates now, rather than the top candidates from five weeks ago?" (Read more Chris Christie stories.)

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