- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2016

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said Friday there were candidates actively lobbying to keep her off the GOP presidential debate stage Saturday in New Hampshire.

“I know that there were certain candidates lobbying hard at ABC and RNC to keep me off the stage,” she said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I think they are afraid to debate.”

ABC News announced its criteria to qualify for Saturday’s debate last month. Candidates had to place in the top three in Iowa, or be in the top six in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or in the top six in an average of recent national polls.

The network announced its lineup for the debate on Thursday, and Mrs. Fiorina didn’t make the cut.

Mrs. Fiorina argued that her seventh-place finish in Iowa, which was better than Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who both qualified, should have earned her a second look. Several candidates have also dropped out since the rules were announced.

“What this debate debacle shows it that votes and delegates actually don’t matter that much anymore,” she said. “What matters are back room deals between the RNC and ABC about who’s going to get on.”

“You know, this is George Stephanopoulos’s network after all,” Mrs. Fiorina said, referring to the ABC anchor who used to work in the Clinton administration. “So maybe George doesn’t really want to see Hillary Clinton ever have to debate.”

The five other candidates who qualified for the debate are: Businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday that Mrs. Fiorina is a “great candidate,” but that the rules have been known for some time.

“The criteria was set, everyone knew what it was, and so I think it would be highly unfair to turn around and change it retroactively at this point,” Mr. Spicer said on Fox News.

“When it comes to the party, we have gone out of our way, in a historic fashion, to ensure that as many voices of our candidates could be on stage as possible, but at some point, the criteria is what it is, and we have to recognize that,” he said.

Mr. Trump said Friday it would be fine with him to let Mrs. Fiorina debate.

“I know the networks don’t want it because there was a qualification requirement and obviously she didn’t get there, but it would certainly be OK with me,” Mr. Trump said on “Fox and Friends.”

Mr. Cruz on Thursday called on ABC and the Republican National Committee to include Mrs. Fiorina on the stage.

Mr. Carson tweeted Thursday: “With 9 Republicans left, I call on the RNC to get rid of arbitrary requirements for debates. Americans deserve to hear from every candidate.”

Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, who qualified for the most recent undercard debate, also failed to qualify for Saturday’s debate.

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