CNN has released the lineups for this weeks Republican presidential debates, showing Donald Trump once again in the middle of the stage with Ben Carson to his right and Jeb Bush to his left.
CNN will be hosting the debates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 16.
The lineups are based on an average of the five most recent public opinion polls. Trumps position — the spot reserved for the top performer in the polls — will once again be under fire as the other candidates vie for speaking time and voter resonance in both debates.
“The goal is to hit some real singles in Wednesday’s debate,” Ed Goeas, a senior adviser to Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin, told the New York Times. “Now that we’re heading into the fall political season, it’s a natural time to take the campaign to the next level.”
Rounding out the prime-time group of 11 are Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina.
The network changed the standard debate criteria to allow Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican field, to take the stage during the prime-time event.
According to multiple polls, Fiorina had a breakout performance last month at the Fox News debate, during the hour set aside for the “undercard” candidates.
In a statement, CNN said it was changing the original criteria because of a paucity of new national polls being taken between the Republicans’ first presidential debate and the planned September debate.
Under the new rules, any candidate who places among the top 10 in an average of network-approved polls released from Aug. 7 to Sept. 10 will make the CNN’s prime-time debate, whether or not they place among the top 10 in an average of polls going back to mid-July, thus choosing the 11 candidates for the stage this Wednesday.
“In a world where we expected there to be at least 15 national polls, based on historic precedent, it appears there will be only five,” CNN said in its release. “As a result, we now believe we should adjust the criteria to ensure the next debate best reflects the most current state of the national race.”
“I applaud CNN for recognizing the historic nature of this debate and fully support the network’s decision to amend their criteria,” said the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, in a statement.
The lineup for the undercard debate, which will take place earlier in the evening, will include George E. Pataki, Rick Santorum, Gov. Bobby Jindal, of Louisiana, and Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina — none of whom polled at above 1 percent.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Friday that he is suspending his second bid for the presidency. Perry would have participated in the undercard debate had he not suspended his campaign.
Jim Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia, is the only candidate who did not qualify for either debate.