Fox News, CNN Set Rules for First Two Republican Presidential Debates

May 21st, 2015 6:16 PM

Even though the 2016 presidential election is more than 16 months away, two cable news outlets announced on Wednesday the criteria for the first two GOP debates.

The initial event, which will be hosted by the Fox News Channel and take place on Thursday, August 6, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, will be moderated by network anchors Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace.

Fox News will require GOP contenders to place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent national polls in the run-up to the event, narrowing what is expected to be a field of 16 or more by early August.

The debate will be presented live from 9-11 p.m. on the Fox News Channel, and the format will allow Fox viewers and Facebook users to share video questions via the social media site, some of which will be used for the debate, the network said.

Andy Mitchell, director of News and Global Media Partnerships at Facebook, stated: "Facebook's scale and foundation in real identity give Fox News and the Republican contenders for the nomination the opportunity to open up the debate to Americans in a new and unique way."

Meanwhile, CNN will use a different formula for its debate on Wednesday, September 16, which will feature a literal top tier and lower tier of candidates when it takes place at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

That format was chosen to allow all Republican candidates to take part in one of two debates, one featuring the persons who are highest in the polls and the other for those with lower numbers.

While predicting what the GOP field will look like three or four months from now -- not to mention in November of 2016 -- is little more than a guessing game, Washington Post reporter Matea Gold drew from recent polls in an effort to identify the current top 10 candidates:

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, senator Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, real estate tycoon Donald Trump and former Texas governor Rick Perry.

Lagging behind those candidates, Gold noted, are senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and former New York governor George Pataki.

“Without Fiorina and Jindal, the opening event of the GOP primary contest would feature an array solely of men, most of them white,” she asserted, “not the image that the party wants to present as it seeks the support of an increasingly diverse electorate."

However, the Fox News system allows for an 11th candidate if two of the contenders in the list are tied in the polls.

With this in mind, “the rule could trigger an early rush of spending by lower-tier candidates seeking to boost their standing in national surveys before the pivotal first forum,” she noted.

Mary Katherine Ham of the Hot Air website wrote that CNN's formula “looks like it may allow for more flexibility and a bit more influence from the early states.”

The cable news channel stated in a news release: “The first 10 candidates -- ranked from highest to lowest in polling order from an average of all qualifying polls released between July 16 and September 10 who satisfy the criteria requirements -- will be invited to participate” in the top-tier event.

Also, “candidates who satisfy the criteria and achieve an average of at least one percent in three national polls, but are not ranked in the top 10 of polling order, will be invited to participate” in the other event.

“The second-tier debate runs the risk of being very odd indeed, very entertaining indeed, probably little watched live and likely viral if it turns out as wacky as it could,” Ham stated. “I don’t know whether to anticipate it or fear it.”

Also on Wednesday, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus -- who has called for fewer debates and better moderators in the 2016 election -- stated that the party supports the approaches taken by the two cable networks.

Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges described the crucial role his state is playing in both the primary process and the general election -- as the site of the 2016 Republican National Convention and a crucial swing state.

"A Republican can't win the White House without carrying our state, so there's no better place to host the first primary debate," Borges said.

I'm looking forward to hearing moderators' questions from the anchors of The Kelly File, Special Report and Fox News Sunday. The change from the usual far-left liberal diatribes should be refreshing indeed.