Christie, Huckabee get cut from main debate
© Getty Images

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.

Christie and Huckabee are the only two candidates who had previously appeared on the main debate stage to get cut by the network, which set a threshold of 2.5 percent in four major polls for the top contest. They’ll instead participate in the undercard debate, a demotion that could serve as a major blow for their campaigns.

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 Sidney McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it better 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. 

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDem wins Kentucky state House seat in district Trump won by 49 points GOP's tax reform bait-and-switch will widen inequality Pentagon budget euphoria could be short-lived MORE (R-Ky.) just made it in with an average of exactly 2.5 percent. 

Just an hour before Fox Business was scheduled to announce the lineup, Christie’s campaign announced that he would be on Fox News’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren,” presumably to push back against the fears that the debate snub would hurt his presidential bid. 

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 John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioColbert: Students taking action on gun violence 'give me hope' Lawmakers feel pressure on guns Florida lawmaker's aide fired after claiming shooting survivors were 'actors' MORE (Fla.) Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week 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 Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures 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.  

None of those candidates — Graham, Pataki, Jindal, Santorum, or former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore — received any support in that poll. 
Graham’s campaign indicated it would continue on despite Thursday’s setback.
"Regardless of this decision tonight, Senator Graham continues to be the foremost expert on foreign policy and national security in this field of candidates, on either stage,” Graham Campaign Manager Christian Ferry said in a statement.  
“It is ironic that the only veteran in the race is going to be denied a voice the day before Veterans Day,” Ferry added. 
“In the end, the biggest loser tonight is the American people and the Republican Presidential primary process that has been hijacked by news outlets."
Bush took to Twitter to lament Graham being excluded, saying the senator's “foreign policy message is an important one.”
Pataki adviser Dave Catalfamo said the former New York governor is not dropping out of the race, noting he will be in New Hampshire on Friday.
Pataki said in a statement that he is “very disappointed” in the results.
“This new trend is a danger to our primary system, a disservice to voters everywhere — especially those in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — and a clear boost to the worship of celebrity over accomplishment and ideas,” he said.
“Running for the most important leadership position in the world shouldn't be reduced to the level of 'American Idol' or 'Survivor.’”

- Updated at 8:51 p.m.