The network originally said its Sept. 16 debate would feature the top 10 candidates from an average of approved polls from July 16 to Sept. 10. That criteria was established under the assumption there would be more polls conducted after Fox’s Aug. 6 debate than there were. Based on historic data, CNN expected there to be 15 polls instead of the five planned.
“At the time, we expected there to be many more national polls following the first Republican debate … than there appears there will be,” a statement from CNN says.
In addition to the candidates who qualify under the previous criteria, CNN said its Reagan Presidential Debate will now also include any candidate who ranks in the top 10 average of approved polls since the Aug. 6 debate.
The network said the new policy better “reflects the most current state of the national race.”
The change means presidential candidate Carly Fiorina will potentially be able to participate in the debates after a recent boost in national polls. She placed low in nine national polls taken before the Aug. 6 debate, though her performance there was credited for giving her a boost in post-debate polls.
CNN says it has “discussed these changes with the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and they are fully supportive.”
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told NBC News he applauds the network for recognizing the “historic nature” of the debate and supports the changes.
Previously, a spokeswoman for CNN indicated the change would violate Federal Election Commission rules, but CNN found a way to circumvent that by continuing to include polling data from polls before the initial debate.
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