It’s been a whole month since we’ve seen a GOP debate, but all of your favorites will be reunited on Thursday night — or rather, most of your favorites. Since the last debate Lindsey Graham and George Pataki have dropped out of the race, and Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina failed to qualify for the main debate. That means Fiorina is headed back to the “kid’s table,” from whence she came, but Paul pitched a fit and declared he’d boycott the undercard. The debate, which was only added to the schedule last month, will be hosted by the Fox Business Network. The debate they hosted in November wasn’t exactly thrilling, but with the first states voting in a matter of weeks, the candidates should be much feistier. Here’s a guide to get you up to speed, and be sure to tune in tonight for Daily Intelligencer’s liveblog and complete debate coverage.
When and where is the debate being held?
Thursday, January 14, at 9 p.m. ET. The undercard debate starts at 6 p.m. ET. The debates will broadcast from the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in North Charleston, South Carolina.
How can I watch it?
Cable and satellite subscribers may have access to Fox Business Network even if it’s not part of their usual package. DIRECTV, Suddenlink, Mediacom, Wide Open West, and Cox Communications, along with many National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) companies, will make the channel available to all of their subscribers during the debate. For cord-cutters, the debate will stream on FOXBusiness.com and all mobile platforms with no login required.
Who will be there?
The main debate will feature Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. Here’s how they’ll be positioned onstage:
Fox Business Network announced several weeks ago that there would be a drastic reduction in the number of candidates on the main stage. To qualify, candidates had to be in the top six of an average of the five most recent national polls, or five recent polls from Iowa or New Hampshire. (As usual, the network decided which polls counted.) Kasich qualified due to his strong support in New Hampshire, and the rest are leading the pack nationally.
Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina did not qualify for the main debate, and were invited to participate in the undercard with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Paul, who had previously said he would boycott the undercard debate because his operation is not “second tier,” announced he wouldn’t participate. He said his supporters wouldn’t care that he’s missing out on an opportunity to share his ideas with a national TV audience — albeit a smaller one — because they’re already fed up with the “arbitrary, capricious polling standard” imposed by the media.
Paul and Fiorina have managed to argue their way on the main stage in the past, though both times it was CNN that bent the rules. Nevertheless, on Wednesday Paul began lobbying for inclusion in the main debate, arguing that the latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll puts him in fifth place in Iowa. That poll was conducted prior to the Monday deadline, but the results were only released on Wednesday.
The network told Politico that the stage is set, and they have no intention of tweaking the rules for any candidate. “We announced the criteria in December and clearly stated the polling needed to be conducted and released by Monday, January 11th at 6pm/ET,” said a Fox Business spokesperson.
The same anchors who moderated the last Fox Business Network debate. Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo will helm the main debate, and Trish Regan and Sandra Smith will take the undercard. Cavuto told the Palm Beach Post that his plan is to be inconspicuous, and he doesn’t intend to ask “snide” questions. “The best debates are the debates where the moderators don’t make themselves the show,” he said. “They let the candidates make themselves the show. I’m a fairly big guy, but I want to make myself as invisible as possible.”
So does that mean we can expect a substantive exchange of ideas, rather than an entertaining brawl?
That’s the network’s plan. It said in a press release, “Following the success of the network’s inaugural primetime Republican debate in November, which set a ratings record with 13.5 million viewers, FBN will follow a similar format for these debates, focusing on economic, domestic and international policy issues.”
After the CNBC debacle, the GOP was thrilled with the safe questions Fox Business anchors asked during the last debate. However, everyone else found the debate fairly boring — and the person fueling the most interesting exchanges was Rand Paul.
Still, the debate may be livelier this time around. Voting in Iowa starts in just two weeks, and the GOP primary is getting nastier. The last time we were promised a Donald Trump/Ted Cruz showdown nothing came of it, but with the two openly clashing this week we may see some excitement. If not, there’s always the next Republican debate — which is happening in just two weeks.