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Fiorina pressures RNC to allow her on debate stage Saturday

By Ann Marie Awad   |   Feb. 3, 2016 at 7:12 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The next GOP debate will not feature an under card event for low-polling candidates, which leaves Carly Fiorina off the prime-time stage -- a move she's not taking sitting down.

The former Hewlett Packard CEO penned an open letter to Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, to plead her case for the prime-time stage this Saturday.

"In 2012, the debate stage featured 8 candidates until the Iowa Caucus and then all declared candidates still in the race were invited from that point forward, including the ABC New Hampshire debate. As of today, I will be the only candidate kept off the debate stage," she wrote. "To review, we beat Governors Christie and Kasich in Iowa this week when voters actually had their say. This campaign has the same number of delegates as Governors Bush and Kasich while Governor Christie has zero. We're ahead of Dr. Carson in New Hampshire polling. We are 6th in hard dollars raised and have twice the cash on hand as either Governors Christie or Kasich. We are already on the ballot in 32 states, and there is a ground game with paid staff in 12 states. Yet, all of these candidates will be invited to the ABC debate. I will not."

Fiorina beat Kasich and Christie by winning one delegate in Iowa, where they had won none. Both candidates had chosen to focus more of their campaign efforts in New Hampshire.

It is unclear what Fiorina means when she says she's ahead of Carson. According to RealClear Politics, the two are tied when it comes to polling averages in the Granite state. When it comes to fundraising, however, Fiorina is correct.

To qualify for Saturday's debate in New Hampshire, candidates must either:

- Place in the top three in the Iowa popular vote.

- Place in the top six in an average of New Hampshire polls conducted after Jan. 1 but before Feb. 4.

- Place in the top six in an average of national polls conducted after Jan. 1 but before Feb. 4.

While the lineup has not been announced yet, Fiorina and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore are the only two who are likely to be disqualified under the criteria announced last week. Gilmore has been excluded from five consecutive GOP debates, but hasn't raised a stink.

Under card mainstays -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, along with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. -- all dropped out of the race in recent days.

It's unclear whether or not Fiorina's letter will have any impact. As RNC spokesman Sean Spicer pointed out in an editorial for the Wall Street Journal last summer, the debate criteria is, by law, left up to networks that host the debates.

"Those who call on the RNC to change the criteria misunderstand the law," Spicer wrote.

The criteria for the Republican presidential debates has come under fire often during the race for the nomination. Paul frequently lobbied networks to allow him on the prime time debate stage, once refusing to participate in an undercard debate.

Fiorina was successful in pushing for a rule change in a CNN debate hosted back in September. Whether she can pull it off twice remains to be seen.

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