Thursday’s primetime GOP presidential debate in Cleveland will be primetime coverage for the Republican candidates who made the cut to distinguish themselves from the rest of the field. But more than a third of the party’s candidates, including South Carolina’s senior U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham will have to settle for a lower-key debate beforehand.
FOX News only selected the ten candidates it said had the highest polling numbers. The other seven will take part in a forum before the debate that is also hosted by FOX.
University of South Carolina political science professor Bob Oldendick told South Carolina Radio Network that makes the seven look like lower level candidates. “That second tier really says, they’re almost like, these people don’t really have a chance,” he said. “And that’s why it’s important that FOX gave them the opportunity to at least have some type of forum.”
Oldendick said the candidates in the debate have the opportunity to skyrocket their campaigns — or end them — as large swaths of potential GOP voters have not settled on a candidate five months out from the Iowa Caucuses. For instance, Newt Gingrich surged to the front of the polls and won South Carolina’s primary in 2012 after a particularly strong debate in Myrtle Beach the week before. And Rick Perry likely doomed his own bid with several poor performances (most infamously when he could not remember all three federal Cabinet agencies he planned to eliminate).
Those who are in Thursday’s debate are Donald Trump, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson of Maryland, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.
Taking part in the forum at 5:00 pm before the debate are Graham, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Gov. George Pataki of New York, former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
FOX based its selection on the average of five different Bloomberg polls.