Fox News has announced the 10 candidates that will be on stage for the first Republican presidential debate later this week, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie narrowly making the cut.
Recent polls showed a defined tier of eight candidates that appeared to be locks for the debate.
As expected, frontrunner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMichelle Obama tweets support for Lewis Lewis tells crowd at MLK event: 'Never give in' Pence visits MLK memorial to honor civil rights leader MORE will take center stage. Since launching his bid for the White House in mid-June, Trump has rocketed to the top of the national polls, with four recent surveys showing him with a double-digit lead over the next closest contender.
Joining him on stage will be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who have been polling in second or third place nationally, depending on the survey.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have also been invited to the main event.
Much of the drama in weeks leading up to Tuesday’s announcement centered around who fill the final two slots in ninth place and tenth place.
Christie and Kasich did just enough to improve their standing in the polls and secure their spots on stage, giving an early boost to both of their campaigns.
For Kasich, the prospect of getting left off the stage for a debate taking place in his home-state would have been an embarrassing slight.
In late July, the Ohio governor became the sixteenth Republican to enter the race for the GOP nomination. At the time, many believed he’d be hurt by the late start, but the launch ended up being perfectly timed to give him a polling boost ahead the debate.
After the Fox announcement, Kasich said in a statement: "It's only fitting that this phase of the Republican presidential nomination begins in Ohio - the Mother of Presidents. After all, no Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio. As governor, I am glad to welcome my fellow debate participants to our great state and I look forward to discussing the issues facing our country with them on Thursday.”
Christie also faced humiliation had he fallen out of the top ten. He was once flying high in the polls, and as recently as late 2014 was considered a top contender for the GOP nomination.
His campaign spent big in a national advertising push – including ads that ran on Fox News – as a means of shoring-up his support nationally. The New Jersey governor also got help from a supporting super-PAC, which in recent weeks spent about $1 million on ads running in the Northeast.
For those who missed the prime-time cut, Fox News is holding a one-hour forum that will air at 5 p.m. on Thursday ahead of the 9 p.m. debate.
The forum was originally scheduled to be 90 minutes and take place at 1 p.m., but Fox has moved it closer to prime-time while cutting it down to one hour.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Sen. Lindsey Graham, former New York Gov. George Pataki, and former Sen. Jim Gilmore have been invited to that event.
According to a Monmouth University survey released this week, Perry, Santorum, Jindal, Fiorina and Graham were all within the margin of error of tenth place, highlighting the difficulty in using national polls to determine who is in and who is out.
For Perry especially, this will be a bitter pill to swallow.
The former Texas governor had been clinging to 10th place in many polls, but appears to have been edged out in the final weeks by Kasich’s late momentum.
Perry has gotten raves on the campaign trail for running a more polished campaign than he did in 2012, and for displaying a firmer grip on policy issues.
His supporters were hoping for a chance at redemption after a disastrous debate performance in 2011 essentially ended his presidential hopes. Instead, he’ll have to find a way to stand out in the secondary debate.
Still, after the Fox announcement, he wrote on Twitter:
I look forward to being @FoxNews 5pm debate for what will be a serious exchange of ideas & positive solutions to get America back on track.— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) August 4, 2015
It’s also a disappointment for Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012 on his way to winning 11 states in the GOP nominating contest and emerging as the biggest threat to eventual nominee Mitt Romney.
But little of Santorum’s support from 2012 has carried over, and he’s essentially starting from scratch in 2016.
For others battling it out on the undercard, the earlier forum could offer them a chance to stand out at an event with fewer candidates at an event where Trump will not be looming over the field.
Tuesday’s announcement comes after weeks of criticism from candidates, pollsters and pundits, who argued that Fox News should not use national polls to determine who makes it on the debate stage.
At a forum in New Hampshire on Monday night where 14 candidates took turns speaking, Fiorina took a parting shot at the parameters, thanking host C-SPAN for “reminding the political class that we don’t have a national primary and for managing to get all of the candidates here to the first in the nation primary state.”
Earlier this week, the Marist Institute for Public Opinion announced it was suspending its latest survey to ensure that their polling was not one of the five polls Fox will use to determine the contestants.
Marist argued that too many candidates are separated by too small of margins and that national polling is not precise enough to determine the true standing of candidates at this point. The outlet also said it turned independent analysts into participants in the debate process.
Still, critics acknowledged that Fox News was in a tough spot. There are too many people running for the GOP nomination to fit them all on the same stage at the same time.
In addition, Fox has noted that national polls have been used by them and others in the past to determine who qualifies for debates without controversy.
Fox said the surveys used to determine the top 10 for Thursday were those conducted for Fox News, Bloomberg, CBS News, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University.