CNN has released the lineup for next week’s Republican presidential debates.

The main stage will play host to:

  • Donald Trump
  • Ben Carson
  • Jeb Bush
  • Scott Walker
  • Carly Fiorina
  • John Kasich
  • Chris Christie
  • Ted Cruz
  • Marco Rubio
  • Mike Huckabee
  • Rand Paul

Meanwhile, the early debate field has been narrowed down to 5 players:

  • Rick Perry
  • Bobby Jindal
  • Lindsey Graham
  • George Pataki
  • Rick Santorum

Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore’s overall numbers didn’t make the cut (average 1% support in any three polls released during the two-month window,) so he won’t be participating in the debate.

CNN changed its ranking criteria after fielding criticism concerning the placement of one candidate—Carly Fiorina. In the wake of last month’s first Republican debate, pundits and debate watchers came out in force to praise Fiorina for her performance.

When CNN released its initial strategy for filling the podiums at this month’s debate, it quickly became apparent that, in spite of her excellent performance (83% of the focus group Fox polled believed that she won,) Fiorina would once again be relegated to the junior debate alongside candidates who had underperformed.

CNN bowed to pressure, and changed its criteria, and now we could be in for some fiery moments between Fiorina and the field’s most popular contender—Donald Trump.

Trump recently made some less than diplomatic comments about Fiorina’s looks (or, as he claims, her persona.) She has since taken the opportunity to hit back against Trump’s comments:

When asked this week to respond to Trump’s churlish criticism of Fiorina’s looks – “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” – Carly simply said, “I think those comments speak for themselves.”

After her pivot – a move Fiorina uses so effortlessly and so regularly that it is recognized by some observers as the best in politics right now – she spiked the ball with this: “But maybe, just maybe, I’m getting under his skin a little bit, because I am rising in the polls.”

I’m inclined to believe that Trump will make hay of this tension, because he thrives in any environment that gives him the opportunity to one-up the competition. Similarly, Fiorina has proved herself an adept match for the media’s (and her fellow candidates’) nonsense.

I predict fireworks!

The second Republican primary debate will take place on September 16 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California and will air live on CNN, CNN International and CNN Espanol. The Salem Radio Network will broadcast the debate.


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