After barely making the cut for the first three Republican presidential debates, Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee will miss the Nov. 10 feature bout in Milwaukee after attracting too little support in recent national polls.
As recently as Monday, New Jersey’s two-term governor had said he expected to be on in prime time. On Thursday, he dialed back his confidence, saying on Fox Business television that all that mattered was that he’s on a debate stage, if not the main one.
With Huckabee and Christie cut from the prime-time proceedings, just eight Republican candidates will now face off in the main debate, while four candidates, including Huckabee and Christie, will debate in the earlier time slot.
Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal, hosts of the next debate, restricted the prime-time stage to candidates with at least 2.5 percent support in an average of the four most recent national surveys conducted through Nov. 4.
The RealClearPolitics website had Christie’s average at 2 percent Thursday, with seven other candidates polling higher.
Christie will be at the so-called kids' table debate, which starts at 7 p.m. ET, two hours earlier than the main one.
In recent days, he had been enjoying praise for his performance in the last debate, and his poll numbers had bumped up in early primary voting states.
“We’ve been seeing him gain some traction, particularly in New Hampshire, also in Iowa,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University poll in West Long Branch, New Jersey. “Being out of the main debate undercuts that credibility that he’s been building. It does send a message to those voters.”
Still, being in the second debate could help an outspoken candidate like Christie and is no death knell for his campaign, Murray said. Carly Fiorina’s strong performance at the junior debate Aug. 6 in Cleveland elevated her to the main event.
“There’s no question he will dominate by force of personality,” Murray said of Christie.
In a Twitter post on Thursday night after the debate lineup was revealed, Christie said, “It doesn’t matter the stage, give me a podium and I’ll be there to talk about real issues like this.” He then linked to a video that has gone viral on social media this week, with more than 6 million views on Facebook, of him talking about his views on drug addiction.
Christie and Huckabee were not the only candidates to fail to make a cut. In the undercard debate, former New York Governor George Pataki and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham were both left off the roster for failing to average above 1 percent in the four most recent polls. That leaves Huckabee and Christie facing off against Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the start time of the undercard debate and the city where the debates will be held.)