Who will be in the debates?

With just a week to go before the first Republican primary debate on August 6, the time is drawing near for Fox News to name the ten people who will make it onto the stage. ABC News has done some number crunching and they say that there are eight people who seem likely to make the cut: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Ben Carson

Three of them are likely out: Carly Fiorina, George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham.

That leaves five candidates ‘on the bubble’ (as the pros like to say) to slug it out for the remaining two slots: Chris Christie, Rick Perry, John Kasich, Rick Santorum, and Bobby Jindal.

The interesting thing is that a shift in as little as 0.2% points can make the difference between being in or out and this means that the responses of as few as 2 or 3 people in polls (that usually survey 1000 people) can make the crucial difference, which means the whole exercise is rather silly. But if a pollster calls you, think very carefully before answering!

Interestingly, Fox News has not said which five national polls it will use to make the final determination. I suspect that this gives them the option of having some say in the outcome by trying out all the possible combinations of five polls and then picking those that will result in the bubble candidates they prefer getting in.


  1. Chiroptera says

    I suspect that this gives them the option of having some say in the outcome by trying out all the possible combinations of five polls and then picking those that will result in the bubble candidates they prefer getting in.

    That will be fun. The candidates who aren’t chosen will scream and hollar about how the organizers chose the right polls to keep them out, and the organizers won’t really be able to deny it.

    I suspect that they’re hoping to keep Trump in particular out. It’ll be funny if none of the polls will allow that to happen.

    But who knows? Maybe they’ll commission their own super special poll to select their preferred participants.

  2. Mano Singham says


    There is not a chance of Trump not making it. He is well ahead of all the others in the polls. Furthermore, we have to remember that Fox News is a business and it craves good ratings and Trump will be a major draw in the debate, bringing in viewers who would normally not have watched it. So he is definitely in.

  3. lorn says

    I think you underestimate Lindsey Graham, and overestimate Carson. Graham is on of the few to have a shot at getting Democratic voters.

    I also think there may be some chance Trump doesn’t show up. He will, of course, make claims that makes him sound good. He might tell the media ‘he has nothing to prove’ and that given the ten seats he is generously giving his to one of the “lesser candidates”. It plays to Trump’s sense of grandiosity and ego while getting him out of having to face off against critics with mics that he can’t have turned off, or get a last word on. Not really a debater, or good at thinking on his feet, he really isn’t prepared for a debate. Particularly one where nine guys are looking to cut him down to size. Generously giving away his seat allows him to be the center of attention for several more news cycles. That story will lead any announcement of who won the debate without him there, and keeps him above the fray.

  4. Mano Singham says


    When you say “I think you underestimate Lindsey Graham, and overestimate Carson”, note that I was just giving the results of polls, not my personal opinion on the merits of the candidates.

    I cannot imagine Trump won’t show up. He has a huge ego and loves being the center of attention. In this debate, this will be literally true since as the highest poll ranker, he will be in the center. I simply cannot see him passing up the chance to be on national TV for two hours.

    Furthermore, these things are not really debates in the sense of back-and-forth so do not really require superior debating skills. They are opportunities to spout off prepared talking points and deliver zingers at others. Trump is the master of the personal insult and you can be sure he has prepared them in advance for anyone who attacks him. I suspect that the high-polling candidates like Bush, Walker, and Rubio hope that a couple of the low-rankers will be the sacrificial lambs who take on Trump because they have little to lose, thus taking fire away from them.

  5. lorn says

    If it is a hard and fast application of poll numbers, and given that it is FOX doing it it may be, then Graham is pulling drag (at 0.2) and Carson is (at 5.2) . The question is: How much damage FOX is willing to do to the GOP by playing it straight? It could end up knee-capping their best candidates.

    On its face the process doesn’t do much damage to the GOP lineup because the expected front runners Jeb and Walker are on top and won’t be excluded. Well enough. Quite frankly a Clinton, and/or Sanders presidency would be far, far better than any likely GOP victory. The question for me is how crazy has the GOP gone?

    Is FOX news so ideologically blinded that they think an early death match is the way to get the strongest candidates? The party talk about the virtues of competition and meritocracy and the power of will. Are they going to eat their young to be ideologically pure?

    And what happens when Jeb and Rubio turn out to be the stuffed shirts I suspect they are. Is the GOP depending on a massive campaign budget to conceal the weaknesses? It worked for W. What if the American people learned something from eight years of W? Cracks me up … the American people learning … as if that ever happens.

    Applied to Trump but applicable to all the GOp candidates on the roster:
    “Why buy the bull then you can get the sh!t for free”

    From: http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2015/07/17/18744

    You are probably right about Trump showing up. A fabulists, he can’t resist jumping on stage. That said Trump has nothing to gain showing up. He is kicking ass now and can only lose standing. Making the lesser candidates fight to get into the ring with him is the way to stretch out his winning streak and maximize the area under the curve. It is also the sort of wrench-in-gears move that advances his reputation as a maverick while giving the GOP leadership nervous twitches, and the occasional aneurysm.

    I also think that I’m right when I say that the media would be all over Trump blowing the debate off. The debate itself would be buried by the shocking Trump story, and analysis, and the meta analysis, and ….

    Debate? What debate … was there a debate? I thought it was canceled when Trump said he wouldn’t go. I remember something about ten GOP wannabe fluffs doing something … It wasn’t canceled? It got beat in the ratings by a Columbo rerun? Trump wins again.

  6. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Kasich is probably the most reasonable of the group, but he is polling pretty low. I wonder if he will make the cut with the hopes of drawing the few remaining halfway sane repubs.

  7. busterggi says

    OOOOooo! They should do it like the Oscars and have ALL the wanna-bees in the audience and call them up one at a time as they open envelopes to see who is a winner of one of the ten seats.

    If nothing else that would show who is truly dedicated enough to allow themselves to be publically humiliated..

  8. StevoR says

    @ ^ busterggi : LOL. Could end up being more like Jerry Springer than Oscars if that happens though..

    @ Crimson Clupeidae : What about George Pataki :


    Pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-gay rights.

    I think Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Pataki are the most moderate and thus electable and for the Republicans pragamatically the best candidates. I doubt that they can get the Republican nomination though and may well be that not one of those get even into the debate.

    It seems that Jeb! (BUSH!!!) is the most likely winner of the R nomination to be runner up to Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 election and we’re going to be in for a long year or so of it. Still very early days in the race -- will be interesting to see which Repubs are first to drop out.

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