CNN Ready to Host 17 Candidates in Split GOP Debate

By Mark Joyella 

CNN’s upcoming September 16 Republican candidates’ debate could feature 17 candidates–but like Fox News, they won’t necessarily all debate at the same time.

CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist has written a letter published in The Wall Street Journal this morning, clarifying that while the network, like Fox News, will use national polling data to determine who qualifies for the debate, CNN is not “limiting” the number of candidates.

“We expect between 15 and as many as 17 candidates to receive invitations,” Feist writes. “The debate will be divided into two segments with the top polling candidates in one segment and the remaining candidates in the other segment. Given the large number of major candidates running for the Republican nomination, we are proud to have developed a debate format that includes them all.”


Fox News has been criticized by some Republicans for limiting the number of candidates on stage to ten at its August 6 debate, though it’s expected CNN will follow a similar structure, putting the top ten together.

Bret Baier, one of the moderators of the Fox News debate, recently told TIME Magazine “we from Day One said that the most people on a stage—that ever had been on a stage—was 10. And that was all that was feasible on one stage. I mean we agonized over how to do it…. If you have more than 10 candidates, I just think it would be unwieldy.”