Republican presidential candidates, from left, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker, arrive on stage for the Voters First forum at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on Aug. 3. Fourteen Republican presidential candidates, excluding Donald Trump, participated in the forum which kicked off the presidential debate schedule for the 2016 presidential election. On Thursday, the 17 candidates will face off in two separate debates hosted by Fox News. Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Fox News announced its lineup for the first prime-time Republican presidential candidate debate, leaving former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was leading the GOP polls just four years ago, off the main stage.
Perry was edged out of the crucial 10th spot for Thursday's main event by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The debate in Cleveland marks the first of many political showdowns in the coming months and the first real glimpse at the distinctions between the candidates.
Real estate magnet Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will also have a podium spot in the main forum at 9 p.m. ET Thursday.
The remaining seven major candidates -- Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former tech executive Carly Fiorina, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore -- will appear in a Fox News forum airing at 5 p.m. the same day.
Perry tweeted after the announcement, "I look forward to being @FoxNews 5pm debate for what will be a serious exchange of ideas & positive solutions to get America back on track."
Fox News said it used the average of five polls -- Bloomberg, CBS News, Fox News, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University -- to make the final lineup determination. That decision relegated Perry, whose political gaffes sucked the wind out of his 2012 presidential campaign, and Santorum, winner of the 2012 Iowa caucuses, to a lower tier.
The way the selection process was handled has been criticized, with some saying the national polls used had too small of a sample size with too wide of a margin to assess each candidate's standings.
"I don't know why they didn't just do one large poll of primary voters," Matthew Dowd, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, told The New York Times.
Brad Todd, an adviser to the "super PAC" backing Jindal, said his group will air a 60-second ad in Iowa during the debate that criticizes the Cleveland forum.
"The donor class will not pick the nominee, nor will the establishment in Washington, nor a cable network," Todd said. "I think it could have been done better for all concerned."
Of all of the GOP candidates, Trump has garnered the most attention -- both positive and negative. After Trump famously equated Mexican immigrants to rapists and criminals last month, Republicans backed away from support. On Thursday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus softened his stance on Trump, indicating the GOP may see some value in Trump's brazen musings.
"It's raw and I think it's real and I think that people are upset with government, I think they're upset with both parties...Donald Trump's tapping into that," Priebus said Wednesday on CBS This Morning. "I actually think it could be quite good for our party because I think what you're seeing is a lot of people that were frustrated with politics are saying, 'Well, maybe I've got an outlet here.' And if they're coming and tuning into our debate tomorrow night and getting involved in our party, I think that that ultimately could be very helpful."