By Ben Kamisar
At least two Republican candidates may need strong showings in New Hampshire’s Tuesday primary in order to qualify for their party’s next presidential debate.
CBS News’s criteria for Saturday’s GOP debate includes the top five candidates in the Granite State primary, as well as the top five candidates in an average of polling from South Carolina, the third nominating state.
Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump postpones release of veterans funding details Trump Tower to get heightened security during GOP convention Carson: US present course set for 'carnage and death' MORE, Ted CruzTed CruzDems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals Meet the billionaire donor behind Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Party chairs see reversal of fortune MORE and Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio apologized to Trump for 'small hands' crack Sunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on Fla. Senate candidate bashes Rubio MORE have already secured a slot on the stage thanks to top-three finishes in the Iowa caucuses. All three would likely have made the debate anyways by other criteria.
John Kasich is expected to finish within the top five in Tuesday’s primary, punching his ticket. Jeb Bush holds a substantial lead over Christie, so a fifth-place finish for Bush would also secure him a lectern.
Ben Carson, not expected to play a major role in New Hampshire, currently has a strong hold on the fifth polling slot in South Carolina, according to RealClearPolitics, which would be enough to make the debate if those trends hold.
Neither Fiorina nor Christie are projected to poll within the top five in New Hampshire, and both are outside of striking distance of Carson in South Carolina polling.
CBS News will take an average of Palmetto State polling over the four-week span prior to the debate.
But South Carolina pollsters haven’t been as active as those in Iowa and New Hampshire, so there is significantly less data available for those averages. As of Tuesday, only three polls fell within that window, all with Christie and Fiorina posting poor showings.
Fiorina missed the cut for last week’s ABC debate, the only major candidate to do so. Jim Gilmore also did not qualify, but he’s only appeared in a handful of undercard debates.