Understanding the Fox News Debate’s Rules

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With the highly anticipated Fox News debate hours away, the question now is which candidate will be the first to break the rules in what is being seen as a make-or-break debate for many in this year’s crowded Republican candidate pool. Allegations that Fox News has changed its own criteria for inclusion in the prime-time debate to get the lineup the channel wanted, accusations that Fox News tried to usurp the early voting states’ role in setting the primaries’ ballots and wariness that Fox News’ hosting of the first debate only served to fatten Fox News’ pockets with candidates’ advertising money will all be pushed to the background temporarily as the biggest show in American politics currently takes the stage.

According to sources polled by NJ Advance Media, the format for the prime-time debate goes as following:

  • The candidates will be introduced in order of poll ranking — with Donald Trump being first and John Kasich being last. The poll leader will occupy the center podium, with the lower ranked candidates being stationed closer to the dais’ edge. The poll rankings are: 1. Donald Trump, 2. Jeb Bush, 3. Scott Walker, 4. Mike Huckabee, 5. Ben Carson, 6. Ted Cruz, 7. Marco Rubio, 8. Rand Paul, 9. Chris Christie and 10. John Kasich.
  • Starting in order of poll ranking, each of the candidates will be allowed an one-minute opening statement.
  • The candidates will be given a minute to respond to questions asked by the debate’s hosts: Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelley and Bret Baier.
  • Candidates will be allowed 30 seconds to rebut a question or argument. If another candidate is specifically referenced in a candidate’s statement or answer, the referred candidate will be given time to respond, at the discretion of the hosts.
  • Each candidate — again in poll ranking order — will be given 30 seconds to make a closing statement.

The most likely rule violation will be a candidate willingly going over his time limit. The insider told NJ Advance Media not to expect anything flashy or profound in this debate. “You’re going to get a lot of information that’s a mile wide and an inch deep,” said the insider, speaking under conditions of anonymity. “A lot of issues will be covered, but no room for depth. For the first debate, arguably, this is a better approach: As the field gets smaller, you’ll get a chance to get more detail.

“If they tear each other apart, it’s their own fault. These senators and governors are people of substance. And the GOP has such an obvious advantage, because the Democrats won’t even debate.”

The first Democratic debate will be hosted by CNN October 13. The next Republican debate — also hosted by CNN — will be September 16.

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