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As few as six candidates could make the next GOP presidential debate stage in January, as Fox Business Network's new criteria could drastically shrink the field less than a month before the Iowa caucuses.
Fox Business Network announced three separate avenues to make the main stage, but those pathways are more restricted than in previous debates. Participants in the main stage debate on Jan. 14 must hit the top six in an average of five recent national polls, or top five in an average of recent polls from Iowa or New Hampshire.
The rest will qualify for another undercard debate, provided that they earn at least 1 percent in one of the qualifying polls.
Last month's CNN debate also relied on early state polling, but set a 4 percent threshold. Nine candidates made the network's main event.
Fox Business Network, as in the past, hasn't announced which polls it would use. But using current RealClearPolitics averages, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE, Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE, Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHouse passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China Republicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' MORE, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie currently sit in the national top six.
Those six candidates also make up the top five in Iowa in New Hampshire, in a different order. So depending on which polls would qualify, no other candidates would make the main stage as of now.
That would relegate Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulVaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations MORE, Carly Fiorina and John Kasich to the undercard debate weeks before the first votes of 2016 are cast. Candidates may get one more shot on Jan. 28, when Fox News hosts a debate just days before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucus.