By Ben Kamisar
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are the first casualties of the winnowing GOP presidential debate field, as Fox Business Network announced Thursday night that they both officially missed the cut for next week’s contest.
The writing was on the wall for Christie by Wednesday night, when he received 2 percent of the vote in Fox News’s latest poll. Poll watchers noted that Christie’s stagnant numbers in a handful of recent surveys, including the Fox one, made it increasingly unlikely that he’d be able to stay above that threshold.
Because Fox Business did not release which polls it would use in advance, Christie's fate remained in limbo until the network announced the lineup on “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”
Most pundits had considered Huckabee, who received 4 percent support in the Fox News poll, in a safer spot. He is a former Fox News host who won the 2008 GOP Iowa caucuses and finished second behind Sen. John McCainJohn McCainSenators tout 4.5B defense spending bill that sticks to budget agreement Even in defeat, Trump could harm the country irreparably NY Jets owner said to back Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
Both Christie and Huckabee barely missed the mark, finishing with 2.25 percent in the four polls considered — those conducted by Fox News, NBC/Wall Street Journal, Quinnipiac University and Investor's Business Daily. If either candidate scored just 1 percentage point higher in any of those polls, they would have made it onto the debate stage.
Despite missing out on the main stage, Christie had received praise in recent weeks for his late-October debate performance as well as deeply personal remarks on drug addiction captured by The Huffington Post.
Christie tweeted just moments after the announcement with a reference to that Huffington Post video.
Huckabee was also defiant in the face of Fox’s decision.
“I’m happy to debate anyone, anywhere, anytime,” he said on Twitter. “We are months away from actual votes being cast and neither the pundits nor the press will decide this election, the people will.”
The main debate stage will include the eight remaining Republican candidates who participated in last month's CNBC debate: Real estate mogul Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSanders: Democratic primary not a 'monarchy' Will Ted Cruz let it go? Barrasso to lead GOP platform committee MORE, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioNorth Korean official calls Trump idea of meeting 'nonsense' Senate candidate taunts Sanders: Why don't you endorse Alan Grayson? Carson: 'I would not want to be on the ticket or in the Cabinet’ MORE (Fla.) Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzWill Ted Cruz let it go? Even in defeat, Trump could harm the country irreparably Sanders steps up his attacks in homestretch MORE (Texas), former CEO Carly Fiorina, former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.), Gov. John Kasich (Ohio) and Paul.
Huckabee and Christie will join Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) in the undercard debate. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamGraham: I'm still not supporting Trump North Korean official calls Trump idea of meeting 'nonsense' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (S.C.) and former New York Gov. George Pataki missed qualifying for the undercard because they failed to poll at one percent in any of those four polls.
Neither Graham nor Pataki received any support in three of the polls. The fourth poll, NBC/WSJ, did not initially include the names of any of the candidates who had previously appeared in the undercard. Their names were only included if a respondent declined to support any of the top-tier candidates.
Disagree with debate rules that prevent @Grahamblog's voice from being heard - his foreign policy message is an important one in particular— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) November 6, 2015
- Updated at 8:51 p.m.