Washington — When the candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination gather Wednesday in suburban Los Angeles to debate on CNN, Gov. Bobby Jindal will get the chance to renew his sharp-tongued assault on the campaign’s frontrunner, billionaire developer and reality-TV celebrity Donald Trump.
But Jindal won’t fire his shots at Trump directly: Because he polls near the back of the 16-candidate field, Jindal will be relegated to the second-tier debate among also-rans, to be televised nationally at 5 p.m. Trump will take the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library at 7 p.m., along with 10 other candidates polling ahead of Jindal in national surveys.
Jindal last week ripped into Trump in a speech at the National Press Club, calling him a narcissist and an egomaniac, a “carnival act” who is not a serious candidate. Jindal has kept up a snarky, sarcastic anti-Trump tirade in broadcast interviews and on social media, and in an opinion piece published on the CNN website Tuesday, Jindal referred to Trump as “a madman who must be stopped.” Trump has dismissed the criticism as the carping of a candidate low in the polls who has no chance of winning.
The CNN debate is the second of 11 sanctioned by the Republican National Committee through March. The relative standings of Jindal and Trump in the campaign have changed little since the first go-round, televised Aug. 6. from Cleveland on Fox News. Trump led the polls then, too, and manned the center lectern for the prime-time debate at 8 p.m. Jindal failed to make the cut in Cleveland, as well, and participated in the 4 p.m. junior-varsity performance, which drew one-fourth the record-setting primary-campaign debate audience of 24 million attracted by the featured event.
But there have been some changes in the rest of the lineup.
The seats at the “kids’ table” have been cut from seven to four.
Dogged by fundraising problems, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race Friday; Perry just missed a prime-time appearance in Cleveland by ranking 11th in five recent polls prior to that debate, and he has cited his inability to qualify for either top-billed debate as a key factor in his demise. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who appeared on the undercard in Cleveland, was not invited Wednesday because he did not clear CNN’s threshold of registering at least 1 percent in three national polls conducted from July 16 to Sept. 10. And former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, of California, capitalized on a strong performance in Cleveland to vault to the main stage Wednesday, bringing the cast there to 11.
Joining Jindal, who ranked 14th in CNN’s reckoning, for a repeat happy-hour debate are former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania (13th); former New York Gov. George Pataki (15th); and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina (16th). Perry had ranked 12th by CNN’s measurement.
Flanking Trump will be Fiorina and the nine men who shared the limelight with him in Cleveland: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, of Maryland; U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas; U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
CNN originally said it would average polls from July 16 to Sept. 10 to pick its top 10. But that would not have given Fiorina’s recent surge enough weight to boost her into the top 10. With criticism of its formula increasing, CNN announced Sept. 1 that the first tier would include any candidate who averaged a top-10 ranking in the original two-month time frame or in the period from Aug. 6 to Sept. 10. The only candidate affected by the change was Fiorina.
The earlier debate is scheduled for an hour and 45 minutes. Moderating both debates will be CNN anchor Jake Tapper, with help from CNN reporter Dana Bash and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Candidates will have one minute to respond to questions and 30-second rebuttals, if their name is invoked by another candidate.
The next Republican debate is planned for Oct. 28 in Boulder, Colorado.
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