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In a reversal, Carly Fiorina now likely to make main stage at the next Republican debate

Republicans Hopefuls Speak At Iowa Faith And Freedom CoalitionRepublicans Hopefuls Speak At Iowa Faith And Freedom Coalition
Former business executive Carly Fiorina speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. Photograph by Scott Olson — Getty Images

Carly Fiorina may have just muscled her way onto the main stage at the second Republican presidential debate.

Following her breakout performance in the “undercard” Fox News debate last month, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO campaigned to force CNN and the Republican National Committee to tweak qualifying rules for the next event, set for Sept. 16.

The cable network originally stood behind a standard it crafted with the party in May that would have once again relegated Fiorina to the warm-up event designed for lower-polling candidates. But on Tuesday evening, the network announced an about-face: Pointing to a deficit of national polls since the first debate, CNN said in a statement the featured debate will now include any candidate who polls in the top 10 between Aug. 6 and Sept. 10.

“We learned this week that there will likely be only two more polls by the deadline of September 10th. In a world where we expected there to be at least 15 national polls, based on historic precedent, it appears there will be only five,” CNN said in a statement. “As a result, we now believe we should adjust the criteria to ensure the next debate best reflects the most current state of the national race.”


The upshot is that Fiorina — one of two CEOs in the field, and its only woman — now has a strong likelihood of making the cut. She has been riding a wave of momentum since a strong performance in the first debate, vaulting her into a competitive position in national polls. Pointing to that surge, Fiorina enlisted her supporters and others in the party to lean on CNN and the party to make room for her.

RNC chief Reince Priebus welcomed the decision. “I applaud CNN for recognizing the historic nature of this debate and fully support the network’s decision to amend their criteria,” he said in a statement.

The debate will be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.