Fiorina gets CNN, RNC to alter GOP debate rules
As a pioneering Silicon Valley executive, Carly Fiorina was never one to shy away from a boardroom brawl in the maledominated tech world. Turns out on the campaign trail, she has proved that she also can use her own bully pulpit to force her party to change.
Ms. Fiorina, the lone woman in the GOP presidential field, waged a public campaign skewering CNN and the Republican National Committee for selection rules that she argued might keep her off the next presidential debate’s main stage, even as she was rising in the polls.
On Tuesday, the pressure tactic paid off, even if it ruffled some inside the Republican Party.
CNN announced it was revising the criteria it plans to use for Republican candidates to participate in the second partysanctioned debate this month at the Reagan Library in California, acknowledging the change could open the door for Ms. Fiorina to participate.
While RNC officials privately acknowledged frustration that Ms. Fiorina went so public with her complaint, their boss, Reince Priebus, praised the outcome of 10 days of private negotiations with her, other campaigns and CNN.
“I applaud CNN for recognizing the historic nature of this debate and fully support the network’s decision to amend their criteria,” the RNC chairman declared.
The cable news network said it would allow into the Sept. 16 debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library all candidates who are in the top 10 in an average of approved polls in either the original July 16-Sept. 10 window or a shorter Aug. 6-Sept. 10 period that covers the time since the first debate in Cleveland.
If that means 11 or 12 candidates qualify for the prime-time debate, so be it, the network ruled.
The decision is viewed as a win for Ms. Fiorina, who has carried momentum out of her performance in the “kiddie’s table” debate Aug. 6 and has been lobbying CNN and the RNC to let her on stage with the other top-tier candidates.
Outsiders such as billionaire Donald Trump, Ms. Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson have been surging in polls over traditional politicians like governors and senators.
CNN originally outlined its limit of 10 candidates and then polling criteria, including the July-September period, in May. The network, though, reconsidered because it thought much more polling would be conducted in the wake of the opening debate.
Instead, there have been three national polls since then, and CNN said there are likely to be only two more before Sept. 10.
“In a world where we expected there to be at least 15 national polls, based on historic precedent, it appears there will be only five,” CNN said in a statement.
“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,” the network said. “In the event that any candidate is polling in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls released between August 7th and September 10th, we will add those candidates to our top tier debate, even if those candidates did not poll in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls between July 16th and September 10th.”
If the eligibility window closed Tuesday under the old rules, CNN said, its analysis of polls conducted from July 16 shows that Mr. Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mr. Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich and Chris Christie would qualify for the top-tier debate.
With the change, Ms. Fiorina would become an 11th candidate.
Ms. Fiorina celebrated the news during an interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday evening.
“I look forward to having a substantive conversation about the issues that face our nation with the other front-runners,” she said, “which we would have more of, not less of.”
“I look forward to having a substantive conversation about the issues that face our nation with the other frontrunners, which we would have more of, not less of,” said rising Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.