- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Republican presidential candidates will have to fall into the top six in national polling or the top five in Iowa or New Hampshire in order to qualify for the main stage of the next GOP debate, to be held in South Carolina next month.

The criteria to qualify for the prime-time debate stage on Jan. 14 in South Carolina will include the five most recent national polls, the five most recent Iowa state polls, and the five most recent New Hampshire state polls, as recognized by Fox News, released before Jan. 11 at 6 p.m. eastern time.

That means there could be fewer candidates who make the cut for the prime-time forum, hosted by Fox Business Network. Nine qualified for last week’s prime-time debate hosted by CNN.

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The latest Real Clear Politics average of national polls has businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the top six.

Mr. Cruz, Mr. Trump, Mr. Rubio, Mr. Carson, and Mr. Bush comprise the top five in the latest average on Iowa, and Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Rubio, Mr. Christie, and Mr. Bush are in the top five in the latest average on New Hampshire.

Fox Business Network said there will once again be an earlier debate for candidates who don’t make the main stage. To qualify for the “undercard” debate, candidates have to register at least one percent in one of the five most recent national polls.

Fox News Channel has also announced that it will host the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses. That debate will be on Jan. 28 in Des Moines.

Fox News hosts Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace will return as moderators after participating in the Aug. 6 debate hosted by Fox News.

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