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CNBC just announced its Republican debate rules, and a few candidates are in big trouble

Rand Paul, at the September 16 Republican debate.
Rand Paul, at the September 16 Republican debate.
ustin Sullivan/Getty

The next Republican presidential debate is just four weeks away — and on Wednesday afternoon, host CNBC announced its rules for which candidates will qualify:

  • The network will look at national polls from just six organizations — NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN, and Bloomberg — released between September 17 and October 21.
  • To qualify for the primetime debate, candidates must average 2.5 percent in these polls.
  • To qualify for the earlier "JV" debate, a candidate must hit 1 percent in any one of these polls.

Rand Paul is in the most danger of being dropped from the primetime stage, but others are at risk too

cnbc averages

Only four polls from CNBC's approved list of organizations have been released since September 17 so far, and I've averaged them in the chart above.

The only candidates whose primetime positions seem completely secure are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz. All are currently averaging 6 percent or above.

The other remaining primetime debaters from last time — John Kasich (4 percent), Chris Christie (3.75 percent), Mike Huckabee (3.5 percent), and Rand Paul (2.75 percent) — can't get too comfortable. Currently, Paul is in the most danger of falling below that 2.5 percent cutoff. But depending on how many new polls come out in the three weeks remaining, any of the others could hit a bad streak and end up demoted to the earlier segment.

The good news for minor candidates is that CNBC did decide to have a "JV debate" after all — until today, the network hadn't confirmed that it would. To appear in that segment, a candidate only needs to hit 1 percent in one poll from any of those six organizations in the relevant period.

Every Republican in the race has already managed to do that — except Lindsey Graham and Jim Gilmore (who failed to qualify for CNN's earlier debate segment). Graham has hit 1 percent in a few of these polls before, so he could do so again. But the clock is ticking — he's got three weeks left, or he'll be out of the debate entirely.

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