Fox News unveiled the list of 10 candidates invited to Thursday’s first GOP presidential debate of this cycle — with Donald Trump at top, and New jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich just making the cut.
Those who didn’t make it include former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina.
Fox News selected the invitees via an average of five most recent national polls, a selection process that was the source of some controversy and consternation but that the network said was a necessity given the sheer size of the GOP field. The candidates who didn’t make the cut will be invited to participate in their own debate earlier in the day.
Trump will be front and center on the stage, according to Fox, next to Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.).
The debate is scheduled to being at 8:50 p.m. ET on Thursday from Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace are moderating, and Facebook is a co-sponsor.
Trump’s position atop the polls has shaken up the race and has had longtime GOP strategists scratching their heads on why his candidacy has struck a chord among primary voters. It also has changed the dynamics of the event, as candidates weigh how to respond to Trump, especially if he attacks them as he has done on the campaign trail and on Twitter. Trump, meanwhile, has tried to dampen expectations leading into the debate, noting that he has not participated in such an event before. But his campaign has been driven by his persona as a firebrand.
Perhaps more of a challenge is the fact that, even with Fox News winnowing the field for a primetime debate, it still will be 10 candidates sharing the stage. That’s why the most memorable takeaway moments are most likely to be unplanned, rather a serious policy discussion.
The debate invitees, by ranking in poll averages, below:
1. Donald Trump
2. Jeb Bush
3. Scott Walker
4. Mike Huckabee
5. Ben Carson
6. Ted Cruz
7. Marco Rubio
8. Rand Paul
10. John Kasich
Candidates in the earlier debate, starting at 5 p.m. ET, include Perry, Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Fiorina, Graham, former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.