Chris Christie Bumped Into Undercard Debate

If you're frustrated that there are so many GOP presidential candidates, then you're not alone. But that will be less of an issue soon, as more of the 2016 presidential hopefuls slip in the polls. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will not be in the primetime debate on the Fox Business Network next Tuesday. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was also relegated to the undercard debate. They'll be joined by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Sen. Rick Santorum. The primetime debate will be held at 9 p.m. Eastern time, while the undercard event will be at 7 p.m.

In order to participate in the primetime segment of the next GOP presidential debate, candidates must have an average of at least 2.5 percent in the four most recent polls conducted through Nov. 4. A Fox News poll released Wednesday found Christie polling at just 2 percent, which would bring his average down to 2.25 percent. To participate in the undercard debate, candidates must earn at least a 1 percent rating. That means that more candidates than just Christie and Huckabee were affected — former New York Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore won't be able to participate in any debate at all.

During the previous Republican debates this campaign season, we've seen former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina rise from the undercard round in the first debate to the main stage at the next two events. Christie moving to the earlier event marks the first time a candidate has been demoted from the primetime stage this election season. So Christie is basically out of options. The first three polls of the qualification period came from Quinnipiac, NBC News with The Wall Street Journal, and CBS News with The New York Times. In those polls, Christie polled at 3 percent, 3 percent, and 1 percent, respectively.

For its part, Rand Paul's team is less concerned, even though he barely made the primetime debate. Doug Stafford, Paul's chief strategist, told The Daily Beast that Paul "is in" for the primetime debate, based on the Fox Business Network criteria. Paul polled at 4 percent in that poll.

The qualification criteria may seem harsh, but it's not realistic for networks to keep hosting two debates each time there's a GOP forum. As the election season continues, the debates should focus on candidates the voters actually want to hear from.