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.

ADVERTISEMENT
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 McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy 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 PaulHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Authorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient GOP feuds with outside group over analysis of tax framework 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 TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE (Fla.) Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong This week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform Week ahead: Senators work toward deal to fix ObamaCare markets 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 GrahamDurbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement 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.