Things just got a lot easier for Republican presidential hopefuls who want to get onstage with some of their competitors in August. Fox News, which will host the first presidential debates of the Republican primary season, announced on Tuesday that the qualifying threshold for their second-tier debate panel will be expanded to allow in candidates who are not polling at or above 1 percent nationwide, Politico reports.
With the new qualifying guidelines, all 16 of the declared, serious Republican candidates will be able to debate in August. The system is still cut into two tiers, with the top ten polling candidates debating at 9 p.m. EDT, preceded by the lower tier, who will debate at 5 p.m.
The original guidelines had garnered criticism from some -- especially candidates like former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki, all of whom appear to be polling below 1 percent, according to a New York Times analysis. Just above that line are Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who was the runner up in the 2012 nomination process.
Others worried that the criteria put a large amount of placement and debate qualification into the hands of luck; it is virtually impossible to determine that a poll is completely accurate, and all include a margin of error.
“Due to the overwhelming interest in the FOX News Facebook Debate Event Night on Aug. 6th, and in a concerted effort to include and accommodate the now 16 Republican candidate field — the largest in modern political history — FOX News is expanding participation in the 5 PM/EDT debate to all declared candidates whose names are consistently being offered to respondents in major national polls, as recognized by Fox News,” said Michael Clemente, Fox News' executive vice president, in a statement.
All of the so-called serious candidates for the Republican nomination have received extensive coverage and airtime on Fox News, a major provider of conservative and Republican news coverage and a network that has high ratings. Leading those appearances are Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has been on 35 times, followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who has shown up 31 times and businessman Donald Trump, who has had 30 appearances on Fox News, according to Politico.