Chris Christie’s run as a mainstay on the GOP main stage appears to be over.
Fox Business is set to announce the official lineup for its debate, which will take place in Milwaukee next Tuesday, and Christie’s relegation to the undercard event appears unavoidable. In order to qualify for the prime-time debate, candidates need to average at least 2.5 percent in the four “most recent national polls” approved by the network. In typical Foxian fashion, those rules give the network some leeway to pick and choose from a handful of surveys after they’ve already seen the results—but not enough to change Christie’s fate.
The four most recent major polls conducted before the Nov. 4 cutoff were from Fox News, Quinnipiac, NBC/Wall Street Journal, and CBS/New York Times. Christie averages only 2.25 percent in those surveys, short of the 2.5 percent he needs. One potential wrinkle, though, is that Fox News tossed out a similar NBC poll when sending out invites to the first GOP debate this summer over concerns about how the survey’s questions were worded. If Fox Business does the same thing on Thursday, it would most likely then replace it with one of two other polls—a Monmouth survey or a ABC/Washington Post survey—and neither would provide the type of boost that Christie needs. (The other main stage candidates who were sweating things out—Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and John Kasich—all appear safe regardless of which polls Fox uses.)
While Christie’s fate seems sealed, the same can’t be said for two of the debate understudies: Bobby Jindal and George Pataki. Under Fox’s rules, a candidate needs only to hit the 1-percent mark in one of the four qualifying polls to take part in the opening debate. Jindal and Pataki, though, were stuck on zero in the four most recent polls. If Fox decides to drop the NBC poll, though, it could provide a lifeline to either candidate—but not both—since Jindal hit the 1-percent mark in the Monmouth poll and Pataki did the same in the ABC poll. Fox execs on Thursday, then, won’t just be picking which polls to use—they will be picking which candidates they want to see on stage.