Carly Fiorina is urging the Republican National Committee (RNC) to intervene in the second Republican presidential debate so that she wins a spot on the stage.

Sarah Isgur Flores, Fiorina’s campaign manager, blasted the criteria that host network CNN is using to select the candidates — the top 10 in polling, out of 17 — for the Sept. 16 debate. She warned that Fiorina could miss the cut because the network will consider polls from earlier in the summer.


“Despite being solidly in the top 10 by every measure, the political establishment is still rigging the game to keep Carly off the main debate stage next month,” Isgur Flores wrote.

Fiorina missed the cut for the first Fox News debate, in August, but has risen in the polls after delivering a strong performance in the “undercard” event held for candidates outside the top 10.

While Fox relied on an average of five recent polls to determine who qualified for the main debate, CNN plans to tabulate its top 10 rankings with an average of major polls from July 16 through Sept. 10. That includes nine polls from before the Fox debate, where Fiorina polled at between 0 and 2 percent. She’s hit 5 percent in each of the two major national polls since the then.

“If Carly isn’t on the main stage, it will not be because her rise in the polls can’t overcome lower polling from July, but because only two of CNN’s chosen polling companies have released polls at all since the first debate,” Isgur Flores writes.

“If the RNC won’t tell CNN to treat post-debate polling consistently with pre-debate polling, they are putting their thumb on the scale and choosing to favor candidates with higher polling for three weeks in July over candidates with measurable momentum in August and September.”

If CNN adopted Fiorina’s proposed method, she would edge out Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) for the last spot in the top 10.

CNN, however, defended its guidelines on Wednesday and said it is bound by Federal Election Commission rules.

Fiorina is not the first candidate to criticize Republican debate rules. Several of the other candidates shut out of the Fox top 10 bashed the methodology, saying it was leaving serious candidates out of the discussion.

The criticism prompted a rebuttal by RNC communications director Sean Spicer in The Wall Street Journal in late July. Spicer said that federal election law mandates that only non-profits or media outlets can host a debate, so the party can’t have a say in the debate methodology. He also defended steps the party took in order to shore up reliability of debates, to add partnerships with conservative media organizations, and to host debates in more states.

“Such criteria must be clear, transparent, objective and neutral. No special exemptions can be made; special treatment cannot be given to certain candidates. Fox News and CNN have met these standards,” he wrote.

“Is the arrangement perfect? No. It is, however, the most inclusive setup in history.”

The RNC said in a statement Wednesday afternoon, “The RNC had great success creating a more orderly debate process but ultimately the criteria is legally left to the networks to determine.   CNN’s debate parameters were released in May in order ensure there was notice and awareness of the criteria well in advance of the debate.” 

Fiorina briefly addressed the controversy on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday, noting that the road to the nomination is through the states, not a national election. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO added that a number of state polls show her in the top five.  

"I didn't think the Fox News rules were particularly good using national polls.  I don't think the CNN rules are particularly good especially since they go all the way back to mid-July," she said.
"But you know what?  I don't have any impact over the rules. I think that's why people are losing trust in the media, frankly, and are upset in many cases with the RNC. But what I'm going to do is what I've been doing which is take advantage of every opportunity I'm given and get out there and talk to as many voters as I can."