Facing criticisms from various quarters that the way CNN had structured its Sept. 16 debate would leave out Carly Fiorina despite her bump in the polls after August’s “kiddie table” debate, CNN announced a rule change Tuesday that will open the door for candidates who have surged in more recent polls to participate in the main debate.
Under the previous criteria, the candidates that placed in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls between July 16 and September 10 would be invited to the main debate, which is being held in Simi Valley California.
The rule change announced Tuesday stipulates that if a candidate does not make that top 10 cut off, but makes the top 10 based on polls between August 7 and September 10, he or she “will be added to the debate stage and will appear in ‘Segment B’ of the debate.” Segment B is the main debate of the top-tier candidates.
As things stand now, Fiorina would not qualify for the main debate under the old criteria, but would qualify under the new criteria, CNN said in its report on the change. The rule change means that more than 10 candidates could end up participating in the main debate.
In a statement, CNN said that when it had crafted the initial rules, it had expected more polls to have been conducted than the five that will likely have been conducted between the first debate and the CNN debate deadline.
“As a result, we now believe we should adjust the criteria to ensure the next debate best reflects the most current state of the national race,” CNN said.
The Republican National Committee — which has faced scrutiny for outsourcing its debate rules to the networks — praised the decision:
“I applaud CNN for recognizing the historic nature of this debate and fully support the network’s decision to amend their criteria,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.