Fox News opens early debate to those lowest in the polls
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Fox News will expand its lower-profile debate to all declared candidates outside of the top 10, instead of reserving the stage for only those polling at least 1 percent nationally. 

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Michael Clemente, Fox News’s executive vice president, first told Politico in a statement that the network made the decision based on “overwhelming interest” and will include any candidate “consistently being offered to respondents in major national polls, as recognized by Fox News."

“Everyone included in these debates has a chance to be President of the United States and we look forward to showcasing all of the candidates in the first primary event of the 2016 election season,” he said. 

Fox has not yet released the polls that it will use to determine the standings and decide who will take the stage in the top debate and who will be relegated to the second-tier debate. But the decision means that candidates hovering toward the end of the crowded field won’t be shut out if Fox uses polls that have them below 1 percent.

Both debates will take place on August 6.

A RealClearPolitics average of recent polls has all candidates polling at least 1 percent in national polls except for Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback Democrats signal they'll reject Trump shutdown proposal Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell MORE (S.C.) and former Gov. George Pataki (N.Y.).

As for the top debate, Donald Trump, former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.), Gov. Scott Walker (Wis.), Sen. Rubio (Fla.), former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.), Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) and Gov. John Kasich (Ohio) round out RCP’s current top 10. 

That leaves former Gov. Rick Perry (Texas), former Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.), Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.) and Carly Fiorina on the outside looking in, as well as Graham and Pataki.

Fox News recently shifted the early debate to the more attractive 5 p.m. slot instead of hosting it at 1 p.m. but shortened the debate from 90 minutes to one hour.

The top 10 will debate at 9 p.m. for an hour and 30 minutes, plus commercials.