CNN Announces List Of Candidates Set To Appear In Final GOP Debate Of 2015

| by Sean Kelly
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Nine GOP candidates will participate in the final debate of the year, with the four remaining taking an earlier slot. 

The debate, which airs on CNN on Dec. 15, will include front-runners Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and it will also feature Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey — who was bumped from the main stage in the last debate.

“Christie has seen a resurgence in recent weeks, particularly in New Hampshire, a key state for his campaign,” CNN said of the decision to put Christie on the main stage. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas will remain in the preliminary debate, alongside former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former Gov. George Pataki of New York.

“Along with Christie, [Carly] Fiorina and [Gov.] Kasich [of Ohio] qualified for the prime-time debate because of their New Hampshire average,” the network said, adding that they used national and state polls to determine who was eligible for prime-time participation.

“Candidates must meet one of three criteria in polls conducted between October 29 and December 13 and recognized by CNN: An average of at least 3.5% nationally; at least 4% in Iowa; or at least 4% in New Hampshire," the network noted.

The three remaining candidates who will be appearing in the prime-time debate include former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer is set to moderate the event, alongside correspondent Dana Bash and radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

The debate will be the first since Donald Trump’s controversial proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Sources: CNN, USA Today / Photo credit: Wikipedia, Gage Skidmore/Flickr