Republican presidential candidates who did not make the Top 10 for Fox News’ first televised 2016 debate participate in a smaller, “happy hour” debate in Cleveland.
Seven lower-polling candidates were invited to the 5 p.m. ET Fox News/Facebook debate stage. The smaller pond, it’s an opportunity for at least one of the candidates to make a big splash — and start the buzz that builds a fledgling bid into a serious campaign.
“An underdog is going to emerge from this first debate,” Craig Shirley, a conservative strategist and Reagan biographer, said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who flamed out of the 2012 race after an infamous debate gaffe, is looking for redemption. Former New York Gov. George Pataki, even though he won’t be on the big stage with Donald Trump, appears poised to hammer the billionaire front-runner. Former HP exec Carly Fiorina has been blunt in saying that, as the only woman in the field, she would be a potent adversary against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Any of the seven could have a break-out moment Thursday afternoon that catapults them into the upper mix of the 17 candidates now on the field.
Those invited to the 5 p.m. debate are: Perry; Pataki; Fiorina; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham; and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
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