As you may know, the first Republican primary debate of the 2016 campaign will take place on August 6, 2015. The debate is being sponsored by the Fox News Channel and has been capped at ten candidates on the debate stage. By that time, there will likely be sixteen declared major candidates so the limit has created an uproar among analysts and candidates alike.


Fox has stated the ten candidates will be decided based on the top ten names in an average of five national polls. In the event of a tie for tenth, the debate will include eleven candidates. The issue is that Fox News has yet to name which five polls will decide who makes the cut. As the Washington Examiner points out, the difference in polling will either include or exclude candidates depending on which polls are averaged.

Report from the Washington Examiner:

But there are more than five national polls and that means the 10 candidates who make it to the stage will depend on which five polls Fox uses, and how those polls treat the candidates. Fox did not return a request for comment on how it will determine which polls it will use.

Different polls sample different people, and that can produce different results that either benefit or work against a candidate’s odds to secure a coveted spot on the stage.

For example, out of five of the latest polls, two of them would put former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, a longshot for the GOP nomination, into the top 10 and access to the debate.

A Fox News poll released on June 24 had Fiorina polling at 3 percent, which was ninth place among the 16 declared or likely Republican presidential candidates. That poll surveyed “likely Republican voters.”

Likewise, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll from June 21, which surveyed “Republican primary voters” (but not necessarily likely voters) had her at 2 percent, or 10th place among the candidates.

Both the Fox and NBC/Wall Street Journal poll are favorable for Fiorina, whose campaign would likely benefit from the free exposure and legitimacy a nationally-televised primetime debate provides. But in other polls, Fiorina does not have the advantage.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released June 3 showed Fiorina polling in 12th place, thus disqualifying her from the debate stage. That one included independent voters who are “Republican-leaning.”

If enough of the wrong polls show up, it could spell doom for certain candidates who are hanging on at the tail end of the pack, and who desperately want to be seen as part of the top 10 group.

The lack of transparency, at this point, means Fox can essentially decided which candidates to put on stage based on which polls they use to determine the top ten. I would imagine the details will be released in coming weeks, if not days, given that the clock is ticking down to August 6 quite rapidly. We’re just over thirty days out.