The upcoming Republican debate will once again be headlined by front-runner Donald Trump while new addition Carly Fiorina will make the main stage after being relegated to the lesser debate in August.
CNN, which is hosting the Sept. 16 debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, announced the lineup on Thursday night. The network determined who would make the main stage based on an average of recent polls. The top 10 were originally meant to qualify, but CNN tweaked the rules slightly to include Fiorina as an 11th participant after she saw a bounce in surveys following the Aug. 6 Fox News debate.
In addition to Trump and Fiorina, the 8 p.m. ET prime time debate will include retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The lower polling candidates will participate in a separate 6 p.m. ET debate, popularly known as the “kids table.” The group includes former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore did not meet the minimum threshold to qualify this time around, despite making the lower-tier debate in August.
Anticipation is high ahead of the debate after an explosive August face-off that drew in a record 24 million viewers. The event cemented Trump’s front-runner status even as he lashed out afterwards at his debate moderators over his treatment — particularly Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
For the upcoming event, Trump is already feuding with one of the CNN moderators, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, over an appearance on Hewitt’s show in which Trump was confused and irritated by questions about Middle Eastern leaders. He’s also challenged CNN to donate profits from the debate’s advertising to veterans causes, claiming that he deserves the credit for any increase in ad sales.