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Republican Party presidential debates, 2016

The 2016 Republican presidential debates are being held among candidates for the Republican Party's presidential nomination for the national election of 2016.


  • Overview 1
  • Logistics 2
  • Schedule 3
  • Summaries 4
    • August 3, 2015 – Goffstown, New Hampshire 4.1
    • August 6, 2015 – Cleveland, Ohio 4.2
    • September 16, 2015 – Simi Valley, California 4.3
    • October 28, 2015 – Boulder, Colorado 4.4
    • November 10, 2015 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin 4.5
    • December 15, 2015 – Las Vegas, Nevada 4.6
    • January 2016 – Des Moines, Iowa 4.7
    • February 6, 2016 – New Hampshire 4.8
    • February 13, 2016 – South Carolina 4.9
    • February 26, 2016 – Houston, Texas 4.10
    • March 2016 – TBA 4.11
    • March 10, 2016 – TBA 4.12
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The Fox News and CNN having three each; and one each for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, Fox Business Network, and a conservative media outlet to be announced.

The first live-broadcast debate occurred on Thursday, August 6, 2015 at a sports arena in Cleveland, Ohio. It was seen on the Fox News Channel by 24 million viewers, making the debate the most watched live broadcast for a non-sporting event in cable history.[1] Due to the number of candidates running for nomination, Fox News aired two separate debates on August 6, with the less popular candidates going first, followed by the candidates with more support in the 'prime time' debate.

One debate per month will follow until February 2016, when the GOP candidates will debate three times. Additionally, two debates have been confirmed for March 2016.[2]


Map of United States showing Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Orlando
Fox News
Reagan Library
Las Vegas
   Fox Business
Sites of the first six 2016 Republican primary debates.

With up to 18 major candidates vying for the nomination, the prospect of including all the candidates in a debate presented logistical difficulties. For the August 6, 2015, Fox News debate, only the top 10 candidates based on the most recent five national polls were invited to the 9 p.m. debate. Other candidates had the chance to participate in another debate that was held at 5 p.m.[3] For the September 16, 2015, CNN debate, there will be one debate with only candidates who are in the top ten in recent polling, and another for those not in the top ten but polling at least one percent in "public polling".[4] (However, CNN has reserved the right to, at their discretion, limit primetime participation to the top eight candidates,[5][6] in a situation where fewer than 15 candidates qualify according to CNN's specific criteria.) In mid-July Fox News required that candidates offer a full personal financial disclosure prior to the first debate, which is in line with Federal Election Commission guidelines (but sets an earlier deadline for the disclosure).[7]

The use of polls to winnow the field was criticized, especially but not exclusively by candidates with relatively low polling numbers in August—including Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham—who complained that exclusion from the debates could prevent them from being competitive in the primaries and caucuses.[8] Candidates ranked from 8th to 12th place in the polls prior to the August debate—including Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and John Kasich—downplayed the importance of being invited to any specific debate, emphasizing that delegate selection in early states is more important.[9] Some in the media questioned Donald Trump's seriousness as a candidate and pondered as to whether or not he should be included in the debates.[10][11][12] Trump filed FEC paperwork to make his run official;[13] however, despite doing well in the early polling which effectively guaranteed him an invitation to the Fox News and CNN debates, Trump expressed ambivalence about the value of the debates to his own campaign (saying he was not a debater and therefore did not know how well he would perform in one), and to the process in general (saying that politicians are always debating with little in the way of results).[9] Candidates such as Chris Christie and Rand Paul said that the debates would give candidates a chance to communicate policy ideas to voters, and would thus be helpful in giving voters the information needed to decide which candidate to support.[9] Outside the presidential campaigns themselves, the use of polling data was criticized by polling firms such as Marist, who temporarily suspended their national polling of preferences for the Republican nominee, on grounds that the use of polling data to select the debate field puts polling firms under pressure to produce high-precision results that are inherently impossible to provide, due to the margin of error in any statistical sampling process like a preference poll (see statistical tie for tenth place and more generally the independence of clones).[14] FiveThirtyEight pointed out the varying degrees of discretion that the television networks gave themselves with their distinct debate invitation criteria, noting that the polling data can only be seen as an objective method for selection of the debate participants, if the full and exact criteria are made clear in advance.[6] The rhetoric about the pros and cons of the debate criteria, and the use of polls to winnow the field, partially displaced more substantive discussions of concrete policies that candidates are proposing.[9]


The following table lists a pre-debate forum and a total of 12 RNC debates along with the dates, times, places, hosts, and participants.[15][16][17]

Debates among candidates for the 2016 Republican Party U.S. presidential nomination
No. Date Time Place Host Participants
 P  Participant, main debate.  S  Participant, secondary debate.
 IP  Invitee (to a future primetime debate).  IS  Invitee (to a future secondary debate).
 N  Non-invitee.  A  Absent invitee.  O  Out of race (exploring or withdrawn).
Bush Carson Christie Cruz Fiorina Gilmore Graham Huckabee Jindal Kasich Pataki Paul Perry Rubio Santorum Trump Walker
F1 Aug. 3, 2015 5 p.m. EDT Saint Anselm College
Goffstown, NH
1 Aug. 6, 2015  5 p.m. EDT 
 9 p.m. EDT 
Quicken Loans Arena
Cleveland, OH
Fox News P P P P S S S P S P S P S P S P P
2 Sept. 16, 2015  3 p.m. PDT 
 5 p.m. PDT 
Reagan Library
Simi Valley, CA
Salem Radio
3 Oct. 28, 2015  4 p.m. MDT 
 6 p.m. MDT 
Coors Events Center
Boulder, CO
Westwood One
4 Nov. 10, 2015  5 p.m. CST 
 8 p.m. CST 
Milwaukee Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
Fox Business/
The Wall Street Journal
5 Dec. 15, 2015 Las Vegas, NV CNN/
Salem Radio
6 Jan. 2016  
Des Moines, IA Fox News O O
7 Feb. 6, 2016  
New Hampshire ABC News O O
8 Feb. 13, 2016  
South Carolina CBS News O O
9 Feb. 26, 2016  
University of Houston
Houston, TX
10 Mar. 2016  
TBD Fox News O O
11 Mar. 2016 Florida CNN/
Salem Radio
12 TBD  
^ Not sanctioned by the RNC; an RNC rule makes a candidate who participates in a 'nonsanctioned debate' ineligible to participate in a sanctioned one, but the format of the forum in which candidates speak one at a time with no direct challenges did not affect the eligibility of the candidate.[18][19]
       = event completed
*^ Participating in at least one debate listed above:   Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida  • Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson of Maryland  • Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey  • Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas  • Former CEO Carly Fiorina of California  • Former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia  • Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina  • Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas  • Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana  • Gov. John Kasich of Ohio  • Former Gov. George Pataki of New York  • Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky  • Former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas  • Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida  • Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania  • Businessman Donald Trump of New York  • Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin


August 3, 2015 – Goffstown, New Hampshire

The 2016 Voters First Presidential Forum moderator was Jack Heath of

  • Video of August 3, 2015 forum in Goffstown, New Hampshire
  • Video of August 6, 2015 debate in Cleveland, Ohio
  • Video of September 16, 2015 debate in Simi Valley, California
  • Video of October 28, 2015 debate in Boulder, Colorado

External links

  1. ^ Flint, Joe (August 7, 2015). "Republican Debate Audience Was the Biggest Ever for a Nonsports Cable Event".  
  2. ^ "2016 Presidential Debate Schedule: Republican Party Rolls Out Dates". Politico. Retrieved January 16, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Fox lowers threshold for early debate". Politico. July 30, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  4. ^ "CNN announces details of Republican presidential debate".  
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Harry Enten (June 8, 2015). "What Fox News Still Isn’t Saying About Its GOP Debate". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  7. ^ Matea Gold (July 9, 2015). "GOP candidates must turn in financial disclosure on time to get into first debate". The Washington Post. 
  8. ^ Yaccino, Steven (July 6, 2015). "The Republican Debate Selection Process Is a New Wild Card in Presidential Politics".  
  9. ^ a b c d Ian Talley; Victoria McGrane (August 2, 2015). "Rules Take Center Stage Ahead of First Debate". Washington Wire. Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  10. ^ Schlesinger, Robert (June 30, 2015). "Seriously Unserious".  
  11. ^ Lewis, Matt K. (July 7, 2015). "Why Donald Trump Must Be Allowed To Debate".  
  12. ^ "Republicans' Donald Trump Debate Mistake". National Journal. June 23, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  13. ^ Heather Haddon (June 22, 2015). "Donald Trump Files Paperwork Making 2016 Run Official". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 4, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Marist poll suspended due to Fox News debate rules". Washington Examiner. August 2, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Voters First Forum to test 14 Republican presidential candidates". The Washington Times. August 2, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  16. ^ Alan Rappeport (July 15, 2015). "Candidate Forum Planned in New Hampshire Before First Republican Debate". New York Times. 
  17. ^ James Hohmann; Alex Isenstadt (January 16, 2015). "RNC rolls out 2016 debate schedule". Politico. 
  18. ^ "Fox Plans Second-Tier Debate in Response to Threat from N.H. Newspaper". National Journal. 
  19. ^ a b  
  20. ^ a b c d e Paul Feely (August 1, 2015). "Voters First Forum levels the playing field". New Hampshire Union-Leader. Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Brian Stelter (August 3, 2015). "Republican forum begins Monday without Donald Trump". CNNMoney. 
  22. ^ "Voters First Forum Topics". On Monday, August 3, candidates ... will be broadcast live on C-SPAN at 7 p.m. Topics for the forum will be determined by you, the voters. Please choose the top five topics you would like to see discussed. ...from these [five] identical drop-down lists: Iran nuclear deal, Homeland Security (Terrorism), Defense, International Trade, Immigration, Russia, Climate change, Crime, Drugs/heroin, Death penalty, Euthanasia, U.S. debt/deficit, Taxes, Economy and jobs, Campaign spending Reform, Social Security, Medicare, Healthcare/Obamacare, Gay marriage, Religious freedom, Privacy/surveillance, Education/Common Core, Abortion, 1st Amendment, 2nd Amendment, Race. 
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  24. ^ "Senate roll vote on Planned Parenthood". Associated Press. August 3, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2015. 
  25. ^ Jon Ward, Senior Political Correspondent (July 29, 2015). "New Hampshire thumbs its nose at Fox News over presidential debates". The Union Leader considered allowing Mark Everson, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service from 2003 to 2007, to take part. Everson announced his candidacy in March. "We had discussions with Mark Everson about whether or not he would qualify. We didn't want to do what Fox did, which was cut the field arbitrarily," Spiner said. "We took a serious look to see if we were missing something here, and we decided we weren't." 
  26. ^ Ben Jacobs. "Who is Mark Everson? Why, he's the 18th Republican candidate, of course". the Guardian. 
  27. ^ "Outfoxed: Voters Forum to be first for GOP". New Hampshire Union Leader. July 14, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Radio 2016 Republican Candidates Voters First". C-SPAN. 
  29. ^ "UPDATED: Bush, Walker, Paul in, Trump out of Voters First forum". New Hampshire Union Leader. July 24, 2015. 
  30. ^ a b Ostermeier, Eric (August 6, 2015). "Tale of the Tape at the GOP Debate". Smart Politics. 
  31. ^ a b c d e Philip Bump (August 4, 2015). "Perry out, Kasich in: Fox News announces the participants in Thursday night’s debate". Washington Post. 
  32. ^ Taylor, Jessica (August 6, 2015). "In 'Happy Hour Debate,' Candidates Struggle To Break Through". NPR. Retrieved September 17, 2015. 
  33. ^ Mike Allen (July 28, 2015). "Fox lowers threshold for early debate". Politico. 
  34. ^ "Republican party date: Donald Trump stands front and centre – as it happened". Daily Telegraph. 6 August 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2015. 
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  38. ^ "CBS News GOP presidential candidates poll". Scribd. 
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  41. ^ "Republican debate: Donald Trump still focus of campaign after sprawling fight – as it happened". Daily Telegraph. 6 August 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2015. 
  42. ^ Joe Flint. "GOP Debate Draws 24 Million Viewers, Making Cable History as Donald Trump Leads the Race". Wall Street Journal blog. 
  43. ^ "24 million watched US presidential debate: Nielsen". Yahoo News. 
  44. ^ Jane C. Timm. "Carly Fiorina emerges as fan favorite after 'happy hour' debate". MSNBC. 
  45. ^
  46. ^ Benjy Sarlin. "Four big takeaways from the first GOP presidential primary debate". MSNBC. 
  47. ^ "GOP debate: Trump, Bush, Cruz, Paul, and Rubio mix it up". CBS News. 
  48. ^ "Rick Perry Drops out of Presidential Race". CNN. Retrieved September 21, 2015. 
  49. ^ "Rick Perry Drops out of 2016 Presidential Race". CBS News. Retrieved September 21, 2015. 
  50. ^ a b c d Agiesta, Jennifer (September 14, 2015). "Carly Fiorina will appear in top-tier CNN Reagan Library debate". CNN. Retrieved September 18, 2015. 
  51. ^ a b "On The Clock: Trump Gets Most Time In GOP Debate". NPR. September 16, 2015. Retrieved September 18, 2015. 
  52. ^ "Candidate Criteria for September 16, 2015 CNN Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Republican Presidential Primary Debate" (PDF). 
  53. ^ "Nancy Reagan invites 16 of 17 GOPers to CNN GOP debate". New York Daily News. August 11, 2015. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  54. ^ "CNN amends GOP debate criteria". CNN. September 1, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015. 
  55. ^ a b c "11 Republicans to share stage in next presidential debate". AP. September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015. 
  56. ^ "Republican presidential debate: as it happened". BBC News. 17 September 2015. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  57. ^ Fahrenthold, David Weigel, David A.; Rucker, Philip (2015-09-11). "Rick Perry suspends his presidential bid with ‘no regrets’". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-09-12. 
  58. ^ "Republican presidential debate: Trump and Bush clash but Fiorina stands out – as it happened". Guardian. 17 September 2015. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  59. ^ "CNN moves prime-time GOP debate to 8 pm". Politico. September 8, 2015. Retrieved September 8, 2015. 
  60. ^ "Jake Tapper On Debate Prep And The Purpose Of Debates". The Hugh Hewitt Show. 
  61. ^ Hadas Gold (August 11, 2015). "16 GOP candidates invited to CNN debate". Politico. 
  62. ^ "GOP Debate Clocks Record Ratings for CNN". Deadline. 
  63. ^ "Marco Rubio Shines at Second Debate". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  64. ^ "Krauthammer: Fiorina won GOP Debate, Rubio Came in Close Second". Fox News. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  65. ^ "Republican Debate: Winners and Losers". CNN Politics. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  66. ^ "GOP Debate: Fiorina, Rubio Won; Trump, Kasich Lost". National Review. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  67. ^ "Scott Walker Drops out of 2016 Presidential Race". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 21, 2015. 
  68. ^ "Speaking Time for Each Candidate".  
  69. ^ "CNBC Reveals Republican Presidential Debate Lineup".  
  70. ^ "The GOP Debate Clock: Fiorina Spoke The Most".  
  71. ^ "CNBC to Host Republican Presidential Debate at the University of Colorado Boulder on Wednesday, October 28". CNBC. July 16, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
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  73. ^ "A tiny rule tweak could shake up the next Republican debate". Business Insider. September 30, 2015. 
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  77. ^ Fox News poll, released September 23,
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  79. ^ CNN/ORC International poll, released September 20th,
  80. ^ CNN/ORC International poll, released October 20,
  81. ^ Washington Post-ABC News poll, released October 21,
  82. ^ CBS News poll, released on October 11,
  83. ^ Bloomberg Politics poll, released September 24,
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  85. ^ "Donald Trump threatens to pull out of next GOP debate". Politico. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  86. ^ "Donald Trump and Ben Carson threaten boycott of the next GOP debate". NBC News. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  87. ^ "CNBC caves to debate demands of Trump, Carson". Fox News. Retrieved October 16, 2015. 
  88. ^ "CNBC caves to Donald Trump and Ben Carson's debate demands". AOL. Retrieved October 16, 2015. 
  89. ^ "All-but-forgotten GOP presidential candidate Bobby Jindal might skip the next debate". The Week. October 20, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-21. 
  90. ^ Litten, Kevin (October 27, 2015). "Bobby Jindal will participate in CNBC undercard debate". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2015-10-28. 
  91. ^ "What we learned from the third GOP debate". NBC News. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  92. ^ "CNBC Debate Moderators Face Backlash After 3rd GOP Debate". ABC News. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  93. ^ "GOP candidates take sharp tone in third debate". New York Times. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  94. ^  
  95. ^ Jack Mirkinson. "CNBC just set the standard for catastrophic debate performances". Salon. 
  96. ^ Aaron Blake. "CNBC's really bad debate night". The Washington Post. 
  97. ^ Dan Roberts. "Republican candidates attack media over tough debate questions". the Guardian. 
  98. ^ Amanda Marcotte. "CNBC did ask substantive questions. That’s why Republicans are mad". 
  99. ^ "Winners and losers from the 3rd Republican presidential debate". Washington Post. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  100. ^ "Who Won the Third Republican Presidential Debate?". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  101. ^ "Republicans Fall Apart At CNBC Debate And Scream Media Bias When Asked Hard Questions". PoliticusUSA. 
  102. ^ a b "Debate fallout: GOP suspends debate partnership with NBC". Washington Examiner. October 30, 2015. Retrieved October 30, 2015. 
  103. ^ a b c "Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal Present Two GOP Presidential Primary Debates on November 10th". Business Wire. 2015-10-27. Retrieved 2015-10-27. 
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  105. ^ "Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly will be at GOP debate in January". Los Angeles Times. August 13, 2015. Retrieved September 27, 2015. 
  106. ^


See also

The second of two known debates in March, the eleventh overall, will be the third and final debate to air on CNN, and the third debate to be broadcast by both CNN and Salem Radio.

March 10, 2016 – TBA

The first of two known debates to be held in March 2016, and the tenth debate overall, will be the third and final debate to air on Fox News.

March 2016 – TBA

The ninth debate, and third and final debate of February, may be held at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas, in conjunction with the National Review. While the debate was to be held in partnership with both NBC News and NBC's Spanish-language sister network Telemundo, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus announced on October 30, 2015, that it had suspended the partnership in response to CNBC's "bad faith" in handling the October 28, 2015, debate.[102][106]

February 26, 2016 – Houston, Texas

The eighth debate, and second consecutive debate in the month of February, will be held in another early primary state of South Carolina, airing on CBS News.

February 13, 2016 – South Carolina

The seventh debate will be held in the first state to hold primaries, New Hampshire, and will air on ABC News and be sponsored by Independent Journal Review.

February 6, 2016 – New Hampshire

The sixth debate, and the first debate of the year 2016, will be held in Iowa, which holds the first caucuses, and will be the second debate to air on Fox News. As in Fox's first debate, the moderators will be Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace.[105] This will be the last debate before actual voting begins.

January 2016 – Des Moines, Iowa

The fifth debate will be held on December 15, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada.[104] It will be the second debate to air on CNN, and will also be broadcast by Salem Radio.

December 15, 2015 – Las Vegas, Nevada

To participate in the main debate, a candidate must have an average of at least 2.5% in the four most recent recognized national polls conducted through November 4.[103] Candidates who fail to reach that average but who score at least 1% in any of those four polls will be invited to the secondary debate, which will be moderated by Sandra Smith, Trish Regan, and the Wall Street Journal′s Washington bureau chief, Gerald Seib.[103]

The fourth debate will be held on November 10, 2015, at the Milwaukee Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, airing on the Fox Business Network and sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. This debate will focus on jobs, taxes, and the general health of the U.S. economy, as well as on domestic and international policy issues. Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo will be the moderators along with Gerard Baker, editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal.[103]

November 10, 2015 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

On October 30, 2015, the RNC announced that NBC News would no longer host the February 26, 2016, debate in Houston. RNC chairman Reince Priebus showed concerns that an NBC-hosted debate could result in a "repeat" of the CNBC debate, even though NBC News is editorially separate from CNBC, as both are divisions of NBCUniversal. Priebus explained that CNBC had conducted the October 28 debate in "bad faith", arguing that "while debates are meant to include tough questions and contrast candidates' visions and policies for the future of America, CNBC's moderators engaged in a series of 'gotcha' questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates. What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates' policies and ideas.".[102] .

Many commentators considered the winners of the primetime debate to be Rubio, Cruz, and Christie, primarily for their attacks on the debate's moderator's allegedly tough questions. The two front-runners in the polls at the time, Trump and Carson, did not receive as much focus nor had as many memorable moments, but were still viewed as doing fairly well.[99] Bush and Kasich were largely criticized for their performances, particularly when the former clashed with Rubio over Rubio’s attendance record as a Senator, and when the latter clashed with Trump over Kasich’s record as Governor, and his sudden shift in debate strategy from passive to aggressive, which Trump claimed was simply being done in response to his failing poll numbers.[100][101]

The primetime debate featured numerous clashes between the candidates and the moderators, and the moderators were criticized - both by the candidates and by commentators in the aftermath - for perceived rudeness towards the candidates, asking questions that were perceived as biased.[91][92] Cruz, Rubio, Christie, Huckabee, Trump, and Carson all criticized the moderators at some point or another, and often received the loudest applause as a result.[93] The CNBC moderators were also criticized by some liberal news outlets such as The Daily Beast and Salon,[94][95] as well as Bill Maher, Byron York, and Stuart Rothenberg.[96] Other news sources have come out in support of CNBC's vigorous vetting of the candidates including The Guardian and Salon.[97][98]

On October 21, CNBC announced that 10 candidates (Bush, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Fiorina, Huckabee, Kasich, Paul, Rubio and Trump) would take the stage shortly after 8 p.m. EDT, with four candidates (Graham, Jindal, Santorum, and Pataki) on stage about two hours earlier.[74] Whether Jindal would participate was unclear; he said on October 20 that he might skip the debate if the criteria[84] for the main group was not changed.[89] On October 27, Jindal's press secretary said he would participate: "We just thought about it and he's always been ready to debate at any time."[90]

In response to the previous debate on CNN running over three hours in length, the top two highest-polling candidates – Donald Trump and Ben Carson – teamed up in a threatened boycott of the CNBC debate. They demanded that the debate be limited to no longer than two hours, and also that opening and closing statements be included in those two hours; otherwise, if these conditions were not met, both Trump and Carson would withdraw from the debate.[85][86] On October 16, CNBC announced that it had accepted the demands of Trump and Carson, setting the two-hour maximum and allowing for opening and closing statements.[87][88]

On September 30, CNBC announced that all candidates with an average of 2.5% or better[73] in polls conducted[74] by NBC,[75][76] Fox,[77][78] CNN,[79][80] ABC,[81] CBS,[82] and Bloomberg[83] released in the five weeks (from September 17 through October 21 inclusive[84]) before the October 28 debate would be invited to participate in the primetime debate at 8 p.m. EDT. All other candidates receiving at least 1% in any one of the polls conducted by the six recognized firms would be invited to the undercard debate at 6 p.m. EDT.[72]

The third debate was held on October 28 at the University of Colorado in Boulder, which is also one of the sponsors. CNBC stated that the debate would focus on the economy.[71] The moderators were announced as John Harwood, Carl Quintanilla, and Becky Quick, with additional questions to be asked by Rick Santelli, Sharon Epperson, and Jim Cramer.[72]

Candidate Airtime[70]
Jindal 10:38
Graham 9:33
Santorum 9:29
Pataki 8:38
Candidate Airtime[68] Polls[69]
Fiorina 10:31 8.11%
Rubio 9:49 9.67%
Trump 9:22 25.22%
Kasich 8:42 3.00%
Christie 8:23 3.00%
Cruz 7:53 6.89%
Huckabee 7:46 3.56%
Paul 7:25 3.00%
Carson 7:13 19.78%
Bush 6:08 8.11%

October 28, 2015 – Boulder, Colorado

The primary focus of the debate was on Carly Fiorina, the one and only candidate who rose from the "undercard" tier of the previous debate into the primetime debate this time around. After the debate, most analysts believed that she successfully solidified her newfound status as a top-tier candidate, and successfully defended herself against attacks by Donald Trump. Marco Rubio was also largely viewed as the other strong performer of the night, and both Fiorina's and Rubio's poll numbers began to increase significantly in the wake of this debate.[63][64] Additional candidates who received praise included Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie, while frontrunner Donald Trump, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and Ohio governor John Kasich were largely criticized.[65][66] This was the second and final debate appearance by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who dropped out of the race five days later, claiming that the subsequent decrease of his own poll numbers and fundraising were largely due to his two debate performances being largely panned by commentators.[67]

The undercard broadcast took place at 3 PM PDT, while the main card broadcast took place at 5 PM PDT.[59] The two-tiered CNN broadcasts were consecutive, with the primetime debate immediately following the second-tier broadcast.[60] The moderator was Jake Tapper of CNN, with participation by Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash.[61] The primetime debate, like the first on Fox News, was a massive ratings success with nearly 23 million viewers, roughly 1 million less than the previous debate, and setting the record for the highest-rated broadcast in CNN's history.[62]

[58][55] Former governor Jim Gilmore did not qualify for either debate.[57] Rick Perry had been invited to the undercard debate but suspended his campaign on September 11, effectively ending his candidacy.[55] Eleven candidates participated in the prime time debate:

The second debate took place at (and was co-sponsored by) the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, which previously hosted two of the Republican debates in 2008 – the first and penultimate ones. This 2015 debate was aired on CNN, and simulcast on the Salem Radio Network. Similar to the Fox News-sponsored debate in Cleveland, but with slightly different ranking-criteria, the debate was split into primetime and pre-primetime groups based on averaged polling numbers.[52] The primetime debate was originally planned to include the candidates ranking in the top ten, as measured by nationwide polling performed by specific firms, averaged across polls that are released between July 16 and September 10;[53] the rules were later changed to allow candidates placing in the top ten in polls from August 7 through September 10 to qualify as well. This change was made due to an unexpected scarcity of polls taken after the August 6 debate, which would otherwise have been particularly disadvantageous to Carly Fiorina, who had significantly increased her support in polls taken after that debate but who would otherwise have been kept out of the primetime debate due to her minimal support in the large number of polls taken before the August 6 debate.[54]

Candidate Jul–Sep polls[50] Aug–Sep polls[50] Airtime [51]
Graham 0.471% 0.28% 19:47
Santorum 1.214% 0.8% 15:38
Jindal 1.057% 0.56% 13:06
Pataki 0.529% 0.44% 10:58
Candidate Jul–Sep polls[50] Aug–Sep polls[50] Airtime [51]
Trump 23.929% 27.8% 18:47
Bush 11.500% 9.2% 15:48
Fiorina 2.229% 4.4% 13:30
Carson 8.929% 14.0% 12:56
Christie 3.143% 2.8% 12:36
Rubio 5.643% 5.4% 11:21
Cruz 6.286% 7.4% 10:45
Paul 4.714% 3.2% 10:28
Kasich 3.214% 3.6% 9:44
Huckabee 5.571% 4.4% 9:20
Walker 9.429% 5.6% 8:29

September 16, 2015 – Simi Valley, California

The lower tier debate was the final debate appearance of former Texas governor Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race less than a month later, after he failed to qualify for the second primetime debate and claimed that this was damaging to his fundraising abilities.[48][49]

The two different debates received rather different analyses in terms of the performances of the candidates. In the lower tier debate with only 7 candidates, Carly Fiorina was overwhelmingly considered the best debater, while Perry and Jindal were also praised, and Gilmore, Graham, Pataki, and Santorum were criticized.[44] In the primetime debate, frontrunner Donald Trump’s overall performance was criticized as rude and erratic by many pundits, while others said his comments were popular and his criticisms were overdue. Cruz, Rubio, Christie, and Huckabee received praise. Notable conflicts between candidates included Rand Paul vs. Christie over the NSA surveillance program, Paul vs. Trump on the latter's possible third-party run, Paul vs. Trump on healthcare, and Christie vs. Huckabee on the issue of welfare reform. Trump also clashed with two of the moderators – Kelly and Wallace – on the issue of sexism with Kelly, and the issue of illegal immigration with Wallace (specifically, Trump's claims that the Mexican government was deliberately sending criminals into America illegally).[45][46][47]

In the main event, Trump was afforded the most time to speak at the debate by the Fox moderators (at 10 minutes, 32 seconds) followed by Bush (8:31), Huckabee (6:40), Cruz (6:39), Kasich (6:31), Carson (6:23), Rubio (6:22), Christie (6:10), Walker (5:51), and Paul (5:10).[30] The debate itself was viewed by 24 million people at its peak, setting records for the most-watched presidential primary debate ever and the highest-rated non-sports telecast in cable television history.[42][43]

The candidates in the main debate were Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and John Kasich; the moderators were Bill Hemmer and Martha McCallum.[35] Because of a rule-change announced[3] by FOX one week before the debate-invitations went out, Graham, Pataki, and Gilmore were allowed to participate at 5 p.m. despite averaging below 1% in the five selected polls.[31] (Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson was excluded from the 5 p.m. tier,[31] along with other relatively-unknown candidates who did not meet the updated invitation-criteria of "consistently being offered to respondents in major national polls as recognized by Fox News.")[3] The five selected polls[31] were conducted by Fox News,[36] Bloomberg,[37] CBS News,[38] Monmouth University,[39] and Quinnipiac University.[40][41]

The first debate was hosted by Fox News, Facebook, and the Ohio Republican Party at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio – the same location as the future 2016 Republican National Convention. The two-hour debate invited the 10 highest-polling candidates, as measured by the average of the top five national polls selected by Fox. In addition, all other candidates who were "consistently being offered" as choices in national polls were invited to a one-hour debate earlier that same day.[3] (Originally, the non-primetime debate had a minimum requirement that invitees were averaging at least 1% in Fox-recognized national polls,[33] and was to be aired at noon for a total of two hours in duration.) The two-tiered debate hosted by Fox News on the 6th was qualitatively different from the C-SPAN forum held on the 3rd, for at least three reasons: it was a debate rather than a forum, where candidates were allowed to challenge each other, not just speak one at a time sequentially; it was divided into two tiers based on national polling numbers, only a subset of the candidates were on-stage (during each of the two distinct Fox News airtimes); and finally, Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee were participants in the primetime tier, but did not appear at the C-SPAN forum.[21][34]

Candidate Airtime[32] Polls[31]
Perry 7:06 1.8%
Santorum 7:48 1.4%
Jindal 6:05 1.4%
Fiorina 7:46 1.3%
Graham 6:33 0.7%
Pataki 6:42 0.6%
Gilmore 5:24 0.2%
Candidate Airtime[30] Polls[31]
Trump 10:32 23.4%
Bush 8:31 12.0%
Walker 5:51 10.2%
Huckabee 6:40 6.6%
Carson 6:23 5.8%
Cruz 6:39 5.4%
Rubio 6:22 5.4%
Paul 5:10 4.8%
Christie 6:10 3.4%
Kasich 6:31 3.2%

August 6, 2015 – Cleveland, Ohio

The Voters First forum was broadcast nationally[27] by C-SPAN[28] as the originating source media entity, beginning at 6:30 p.m. EDT and lasting from 7 to 9 p.m. The event was also simulcast and/or co-sponsored by television stations KCRG-TV in Iowa, New England Cable News in the northeast, WBIN-TV in New Hampshire,[29] WLTX-TV in South Carolina, radio stations New Hampshire Public Radio, WGIR in New Hampshire, iHeartRadio on the internet (C-SPAN is also offering an online version of the broadcast), and newspapers the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa, the Union Leader in New Hampshire, and the Post and Courier in Charleston South Carolina.[20] There was a live audience, with tickets to the event awarded via a lottery.[23]

Eleven of the candidates were present in person; Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio participated in the forum via satellite to avoid missing a vote.[19][24] Three major Republican candidates who did not participate were Donald Trump (who chose not to attend),[20] Jim Gilmore (who missed the cutoff deadline)[20] and Mike Huckabee (who was invited, but did not respond).[20] Mark Everson did not receive an invitation, albeit after a "serious look."[25][26]

on their first televised debates (see descriptions below). CNN and Fox News to the top-ten invitation limitations placed by [23]

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