Eight Republican presidential candidates will share a stage in Ames Thursday night.
The two-hour debate among the candidates will air on the FOX News channel. FOX required candidates to show they’d garnered at least an average of one percent in a handful of recent polls. FOX executives decided Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter did not meet their criteria. McCotter’s a recent entrant in the G-O-P race who’s participating in Saturday’s Straw Poll. Fred Karger is an openly gay candidate who has said he’ll consider participation in a nationally televised debate to be a victory for his campaign. He won’t be allowed in the debate either.
The Iowa Republican Party is co-sponsoring the debate and party chairman Matt Strawn says the final decision on participants was made by FOX executives.
“There was a clear, bright line relative to polling information and you’re either on one side of it or you’re not,” Strawn says.
In July, the Republican Party’s state central committee had voted to include in the debate all the candidates who had paid to participate in this Saturday’s Straw Poll, but FOX chose not to include McCotter. McCotter’s campaign is expressing disappointment.
“I’d love to discuss, with Iowans, my positions on the issues and give them a chance to consider them,” McCotter told Radio Iowa last week.
Strawn expects many Iowa Republicans to watch Thursday night’s debate and then decide who to support at Saturday’s Straw Poll.
Candidates Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum — all of whom have been campaigning in Iowa over the past two weeks — will participate in Thursday’s event. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is arriving today for campaign events in Pella and Des Moines and he will be on the debate stage Thursday as well. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is scheduled to be in the debate, too, and it’s likely to be his sole appearance in Iowa. Huntsman is focusing his campaign in states that hold contests after Iowa’s Caucuses.