- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Former first lady Nancy Reagan has invited 16 candidates so far to participate in the next 2016 GOP presidential debate, to be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California on Sept. 16.

“My husband was humbled and honored to be president of the United States. I heard him say on more than one occasion that he was only given temporary custody of the presidency, but I know from very personal experience that it was the role of his lifetime,” Mrs. Reagan said. “Debates are a crucial part of the election process, and I’m thrilled that so many qualified candidates have the opportunity to be heard at the Reagan Presidential Library.”

The debate, to be moderated by CNN anchor Jake Tapper, will be divided into two parts. One group will feature the top 10 candidates based on an average of recent polls and the other group will include candidates who meet the minimum threshold of 1 percent.

The format is similar to the first debate hosted last week by Fox News, although Fox ultimately did away with the 1 percent threshold for the second group. An average of all “recognized polling” released between July 16 and Sept. 10 will determine the groups, and more candidates will get invited if they meet required criteria and average at least 1 percent in three “recognized national polls” between now and Sept. 10.

All the candidates in the top 10 in polling before last week’s event who participated in the prime-time debate have qualified thus far and have gotten invitations: businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Additionally, candidates outside the top 10 of polling for the first debate who have been invited are former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former New York Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore also participated in the earlier debate last Thursday.

Mr. Gilmore tweeted Tuesday afternoon: “I announced my candidacy 13 days ago. Been in contact with @CNN and anticipate meeting the conditions to qualify for Reagan Library debate.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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