There is a rumor putting fear into the hearts of the some of the middle tier of GOP presidential candidates that CNBC which hosts the next debate is working with the RNC to find ways to limit the participants in the next debate to a number less than ten.  The next debate will be held on Wed. Oct. 28th in Colorado.  A month before the Fox and CNN debates everybody knew that it was going to be the top ten (or 11 if tied) candidates based on national polling.  CNN eventually revised its terms so Carly Fiorina would be included. But a month before the CNBC debate we nothing about who will be included.

Based on the Real Clear Politics average (on 9/28) the top ten include, Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush, Cruz, Kasich, Christie, Huckabee, and Paul (actually no other candidate has as much as 1% of the vote.


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Adding to the fear of the lower level candidates is that the second debate brought about a strong reshuffling of candidate’s position and the third debate may be the final chance for candidates such as Kasich, Christie, Huckabee, and Paul to generate some momentum for a run at the nomination.

As reported in Politico:

While the RNC doesn’t set the rules, it does have a voice in working with the networks running the debates. The committee has not said how many candidates will be allowed into the primetime debate, which will be held in Boulder, Colorado, and broadcast on CNBC. Nor are there any indications there will be an undercard event, as there have been in the first two debate showdowns of the primary season.


“With the next debate a month away, it is maddening that the RNC has yet to provide any guidance to campaigns regarding the criteria that they and CNBC plan to use to exclude candidates,” said Curt Anderson, an adviser to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who appeared in both undercards. In the spin room after CNN recent debate, Jindal spokesperson Gail Gitcho said they already had plans to speak with CNBC in order to keep Jindal on the stage.

A senior adviser to another Republican candidate also expressed suspicion that the party was looking to winnow the field of candidates. “Insiders in Washington want to limit the debates because they want their two favorites, Bush and Rubio, to take on Donald Trump,” the adviser said. “They’re whispering in [RNC Chairman] Reince Priebus’s ear that, ‘The stage is too big, make it smaller.’”


Personally I don’t believe the party leadership is ready to whittle down the candidates in the debate, especially when based on the polls as they stand today, the only logical point to make a cut off would be after the top six, which would leave party establishment favorites such as Christie and Kasich out of the running.

In the end it is not the RNC’s decision.

Though the debate will be on NBC partner CNBC, Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and the moderator of Meet the Press, is taking part in establishing the debate set up and criteria. [Which raises the question based on NBC’s bias will Todd make one of the criteria being a Democrat?] And Todd has publicly expressed skepticism about the need to include 10 or 11 candidates, the numbers featured in the first two debates.


“Let’s just say the goal is to create a threshold that candidates have to meet to qualify for the stage rather than committing to putting 10 candidates on the stage. And I don’t think we should commit to more than 10-candidate debates. You have to be viable. So now we’re in debate three it’s time to show viability and only the viable ones survive,” Todd said during an interview on ESPN radio last week.


“You can do it a couple different ways. I don’t believe in setting a set number. I think maybe you come up with ‘oh are you at 5 percent or more in Iowa or New Hampshire’ you can create a sort of floor, no more 4-percenters get in, no more 3-percenters get in.”


But here’s the problem GOP support is still fractionalized, yes Trump is still in the lead but he is coming down to the pack, at this point there is no one running away with the nomination.  And after the CNBC debate there are three more debates before the Iowa Caucus on February first; November (Day TBD) 2015 Fox Business/WSJ Republican Debate, December 15, 2015 CNN/Salem Republican Debate;  and January (Day TBD) 2016 Fox News Republican Debate.  I can see limiting the debate to anyone with >1% of the support, but I wouldn’t cut it further than that, it is way too early.