An open election for both political parties is a rare enough event that CNN excitedly announced the criteria for its September 16 Republican debate back in May of this year -- back before Donald Trump became the dominating frontrunner of the Republican field and before former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore joined the race to make it 17 Republicans vying for the White House.
In May, CNN announced that it would host two debates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. One for the top ten candidates according to an average of national polls July 16 through September 10 and another for those who meet the minimum threshold of 1 percent in public polling but are ranked outside the top 10.
So far, only three polls from CNN's approved list of pollsters had been taken since the last GOP debate. By the time of the September 16 debate, there will be only five such polls. CNN's Mark Preston explained that the network was caught off guard by the lack of polling on the crowded field, pointing out that at this time in the campaign cycles of both 2012 and 2008 there had been at least a dozen such polls.
After her fiery performance at the so-called "kiddie table" of the first Republican presidential debate back in August, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was widely praised by Republican primary voters and political observers as an effective debater. As her poll numbers rose and her media appearances picked-up, Fiorina and her supporters realized that she may yet again be relegated to the "kiddie table" at the next debate in Simi Valley, California, and panicked.
In a post on Medium last week, Fiorina's deputy campaign manager blasted CNN's criteria as "rigging the game to keep Carly off the main debate stage." Her supporters initiated a Change.org petition imploring the network to allow the former HP executive into the debate and her campaign sent an email targeting the Republican National Committee for standing with the so-called "Clinton News Network." Fiorina herself blasted the network's criteria every chance she got.
And now she's won. CNN has changed its debate criteria.
CNN announced Tuesday evening that the network had heard Fiorina's concerns and would allow any candidate who is polling in the top 10 since the first debate. Fiorina has polled among the top 10 candidates since the last debate.
Fiorina reacted to the news that she had successfully lobbied for a rule change by denying suggestions that the move amounted to "affirmative action. Fiorina told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that she had instead "earned this place."