Who Is In The Republican Primetime Debate? The Sixth Showdown Looks Very Different

The crowded GOP debate stage has continued to dwindle, with this Thursday's upcoming debate leaving some once-promising candidates on the "undercard" stage. The debate lineup was announced Monday by Fox News, though discussion for which candidates would make it to the main stage had been circulating for weeks. This shift in candidates marks a surprising turn for some, as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz continue to solidify their standings, while other candidates like Fiorina and Carson, once praised as dark horses in the race, steadily lose their numbers. So with this shakeup to the stage, just who will be in Thursday's GOP debate?

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the lineup is that momentary GOP darling Carly Fiorina was removed from the prime-time debate, and will instead duke it out with fellow lower-polling candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Sen. Rand Paul was also booted to the second-tier stage, but will reportedly bow out of the event, claiming that inaccurate polls and media manipulation are the causes of his lowered standing. He announced his decision in a press release Monday afternoon.

Viewers hoping for the female or independent voices often found in Fiorina and Paul will most likely be disappointed. The main stage debate will feature Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. This group of seven seems a long way away from the original 17 Republican candidates.

According to USA Today's presidential poll tracker, the top candidates in the debate are all separated by a large margin. Trump currently leads with 34 percent, with Cruz falling in at 20 percent and Rubio at 11 percent. Bush is one of the lowest scoring among those who made the cut for prime time, polling a 3.8 percent. He barely managed to beat out Paul and Fiorina, who are polling at 2.8 and 2 percent, respectively. Interestingly, Kasich, who qualified for the main debate, is polling nationally at a mere 1.8 percent. Perhaps there is something to be said for Paul's cries of unfair media attention and poll manipulation.

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Though these numbers are sure to fluctuate, the primaries are fast approaching, and the candidates only have a limited amount of time to campaign accordingly. If going only by the polls, it seems that Bush and Christie both could face the chopping block for the next debate. However, only time will tell which candidates will be left standing in debates to come. Goodness knows, they do seem never-ending.