Fiorina Aide Decries CNN Debate Rules: 'This Is Ridiculous'

The deputy campaign manager said she feels "confident" they'll try to keep the former Hewlett-Packard CEO from debating.

Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks to the media in the spin area after a televised forum ahead of the first Republican presidential debate at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The deputy campaign manager of Carly Fiorina's presidential effort said she feels "very confident" that CNN and the Republican National Committee will keep the former Hewlett-Packard CEO off the debate stage on September 16 despite her rising popularity.

"I think CNN and the RNC have made it very clear that they have every intention of doing that," the staffer, Sarah Isgur Flores, told Bloomberg Wednesday. "I feel very confident that they’re going to do that."

Flores, a former RNC aide, also wrote in an entry on Fiorina's Medium account Wednesday that "the political establishment is still rigging the game to keep Carly off the main debate stage next month" because CNN will use polls from before the Republican field's first debates on August 6 to determine who qualifies for its debate.

Fiorina's widely praised performance in a "candidate forum" that night helped propel her polling numbers, but the inclusion of the earlier polls and the paucity of more recent polls could keep the only woman in the 17-candidate Republican field from appearing on the debate stage.

As Fiorina's polls numbers have risen, the campaign, which stayed relatively quiet when the candidate failed to make the primetime debate for the top-polling Republicans on August 6, has also gone on offense.

After the debate, Fiorina slammed as "offensive" Donald Trump's remarks about Fox anchor Megyn Kelly and questioned whether he's a Republican. Before, she had warned people not to underestimate the mogul and Republican front-runner's outsider appeal, and she confined most of her attacks to Hillary Clinton.

Fiorina added Wednesday that the debate rules showed why people had lost faith in the media and the RNC. "I didn't think the Fox News rules were particularly good, using national polls," she said on Morning Joe. "I don't think the CNN rules are particularly good."

A RealClearPolitics poll average puts Fiorina at seventh in the field, although she polls as high as second in some smaller state polls.

"I am a little surprised that the RNC and CNN feel quite so strongly to keep her off the stage yet again," Flores said Wednesday. "I’m upset because this is ridiculous."

A spokeswoman for CNN wrote in an e-mailed statement that "Federal Election Commission guidelines make it clear that these criteria cannot be changed after they have been published. We believe that our approach is a fair and effective way to deal with the highest number of candidates we have ever encountered."

"The RNC had great success creating a more orderly debate process but ultimately the criteria is legally left to the networks to determine," a spokeswoman for the organization said in an e-mailed statement. "CNN’s debate parameters were released in May in order ensure there was notice and awareness of the criteria well in advance of the debate."

Fox News also faced anger from candidates and activists over its limiting the August debate.

Ali Elkin contributed reporting.

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