Fio­r­ina gets CNN, RNC to al­ter GOP de­bate rules

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

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.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“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.

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