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Kasich Makes The Cut, Perry Left In The Cold For First GOP Presidential Debate


More people are running for president than ever before on the Republican side. So Fox News decided they would try to limit the numbers for the first debate tomorrow night. Suffice to say, no one envied Fox for having that task, but they've done it. After a complex process full of decimal points and controversy, decisions were made. Ten candidates will be there. Others were left out. Here's NPR's Sarah McCammon.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Sometimes what's more interesting than who makes the cut is who doesn't.


CHRIS HARRISON: Gentlemen, good evening.


HARRISON: Welcome to your first rose ceremony.


JEFF PROBST: You will try to knock your opponent off the platform, into the water.


MEGYN KELLY: Coming in in the next five, and this is where the real drama has been because...

MCCAMMON: It's not quite ABC's "The Bachelorette" or "Survivor" on CBS. But last night on Fox, anchor Megyn Kelly had some big news - unveiling the top 10 Republicans who made the lineup for Fox's prime-time debate. It's the first chance for candidates to show they're in the top tier. Barely making the cut, according to Fox's selection criteria based on national polls, was Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who only got into the race last month. Here's Kelly again.


KELLY: That edges out Gov. Rick Perry, who had been in that position up until recently but did not average into the top 10.

MCCAMMON: In the weeks leading up to the first debate, the candidates have been fighting for attention and poll numbers. Some like Kasich - and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, at No. 9 in Fox's ranking - have run ads in key states like New Hampshire.


CHRIS CHRISTIE: I mean what I say and I say what I mean, and that's what America needs right now. I'm Chris Christie.

MCCAMMON: All in an effort to take on top-tier candidates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and, yes, Donald Trump. Fox's dependence on polls is getting some flak from pollsters themselves. This week, the group behind the McClatchy-Marist Polls stopped asking Republicans who they're supporting out of concern about Fox's methods. Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson says in terms of real support, there's not a huge difference between No. 10 and No. 11, but making the cut looks good.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON: You now have a chance to create a moment, reinvigorate your candidacy, to get a lot of attention and to get back on a path toward being one of the top contenders in this race.

MCCAMMON: Also keeping an eye on the Republican debate - Democrats, like pollster Margie Omero.

MARGIE OMERO: At some level, it almost doesn't matter who's the ninth spot or the 10th spot or the 11th spot because you have Trump in the first spot, and he has dominated the conversation.

MCCAMMON: The more Republicans fight amongst themselves in an effort to stand out, Omero argues, the better Democrats might look to voters. Not having to go up against Trump is a possible silver lining for those left out, says Republican Kristen Soltis Anderson. For them, Fox is hosting a separate, earlier debate. Soltis Anderson cautions it's too soon to write that group off.

ANDERSON: This is a very fluid process. And last time around at this stage in the game, you had a number of candidates who all would go from being at the bottom of the pack, surging to the top, only to then implode or disappear, and round and round it went.

MCCAMMON: The bottom-tier debate begins tomorrow at 5 Eastern time, followed by the main event at 9. With almost six months to go before any voting begins, it will be the first of many chances for voters to narrow down their options. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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