CNN will host the next two Republican primary debates and has upped the qualifying criteria—potentially winnowing the stage down to two podiums.
The debates will be held in Iowa and New Hampshire on January 10 and 21, respectively, the network announced on Thursday. Candidates aiming to qualify must reach 10 percent in three national or state polls, of which one must be a CNN poll in each state. The criteria for the New Hampshire debate will be waived for candidates who finish in the top three positions in the Iowa caucuses on January 15.
The network’s high bar may end up disqualifying candidates like Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy, whose fiery debate stage performances have translated to minimal polling gains. A Wall Street Journal national poll released on Thursday showed only three candidates—Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Nikki Haley—reaching double-digit numbers, while FiveThirtyEight’s Iowa and New Hampshire polling averages indicate only those three may qualify.
Trump has not appeared at any debate this cycle, opting for campaign rallies or audience forums during debate weeks, such as a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity the day before this Wednesday’s GOP debate on NewsNation.
CNN did not announce its slate of moderators for either debate, nor did it mention any partnership with the Republican National Committee. The RNC has previously intervened when candidates participated in an unsanctioned event, quashing a Fox News joint appearance between Christie and Ramaswamy in October, though CNN reported on Thursday that the RNC is expected to drop the requirement this week.
The debates will be CNN’s first primary debates this cycle after a series of town halls. Previous GOP debates have taken place on Fox News, the Fox Business Network, NBC News, and NewsNation.
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