OKLAHOMA CITY -- Rick Santorum hopes that Fox News officials will come to their senses and find a fairer, smarter way to pick participants for the first Republican debate of the 2016 presidential campaign.

The network announced on Wednesday that presidential hopefuls must place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent national polls to guarantee a spot on the debate stage in Cleveland on Aug. 6. If that list were generated today, Santorum -- a former senator from Pennsylvania -- would not make the cut, but only by a fraction of a point. Same with Ohio Gov. John Kasich. And lagging behind them are Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and former New York governor George Pataki.

"I'm somebody who believes that we should have an inclusive process," Santorum told reporters after giving a speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. "If you're a United States senator, if you're a governor, if you're a woman who ran a Fortune 500 company and you're running a legitimate campaign for president, then you should have the right to be on the stage with everybody else... It's arbitrary. Somebody at 1.15 is in, and somebody at 1.14 is out. That to me is not a rational way."

Plus, Santorum said, national polls do not always capture the viability of a candidate. He noted that when he ran for president during the last cycle, he had a low single-digit standing in the national polls in January 2012 -- and then went on to win the Iowa caucuses. He noted that there have been candidates who have had the opposite experience: high national polling numbers and then not a single primary state win. If poll numbers must be used, he suggested focusing on those from early-primary states, not national stats.

"I just think it's like saying: 'Is it hot outside? Well, let's go inside and measure temperatures,'" Santorum said. "That has nothing to do with how hot it is outside. You have to go to the place where the temperature matters. And it matters in the early primary states."

Here's what Santorum suggests that Fox News do: Randomly split the larger-than-usual GOP field in half and have two debates. That would put six to eight candidates on the stage at a time, rather than 10, and allow a little more time for answers.

"It's not whether it's fair to the candidates or not," Santorum said. "It has nothing to do with the candidates. It has to do with the American people... What's fair to them is to see some really sharp people who, at least at this point, are almost decidedly not going to be in unless things change. And that's not a good thing for the process."