Fox News put months of speculation to rest Tuesday evening, announcing the final lineup for Thursday night's Republican presidential debate. The network announced that it planned to limit participation in the primetime showdown to the top 10 performers in the five most-recent national polls, prompting months of speculation and jockeying.
Ultimately, the lineup that will participate at 9 p.m. — the first 2016 debate sanctioned by the Republican Party — matched most predictions. The stage will look something like this, as Fox will put the highest-polling candidates at the center and then work outward.
The top 10:
1. Businessman Donald Trump. Five-poll average: 23.4
2. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush: 12
3. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: 10.2
4. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee: 6.6
5. Dr. Ben Carson: 5.8
6. Sen. Ted Cruz: 5.4
7. Sen. Marco Rubio: 5.4
8. Sen. Rand Paul: 4.8
9. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: 3.4
10. Ohio Gov. John Kasich: 3.2
In an effort to tamp down complaints from candidates who were unlikely to make it onto the stage, Fox added a 5 p.m. candidate forum that will air prior to the main debate. Derisively referred to as the "kiddie table" debate, it will include former Texas governor Rick Perry (at 1.8 percent), former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (1.4), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (1.4), businesswoman Carly Fiorina (1.3), Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C., 0.7), former New York governor George Pataki (0.6) and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore (0.2). Former IRS commissioner Mark Everson, who filed a complaint about the selection process with the FEC, will not be included. (In an e-mail to The Post, Everson indicated that he had not heard from the network.) Fox eliminated a mandatory 1 percent polling average for participation in the earlier event. If they hadn't, Pataki, Gilmore and Graham wouldn't have been able to participate.
Everson's won't be the last complaint about the process. Graham has criticized it in the past, as has Santorum. After Fox announced the participants, Santorum spokesman Matt Beynon released a statement bashing it. "National polls are meaningless in August," he wrote, pointing to the leaders in the field at this point in 2008 and 2012. "The idea that they have left out the runner-up for the 2012 nomination, the former 4-term Governor of Texas, the Governor of Louisiana, the first female Fortune 50 CEO, and the 3-term Senator from South Carolina due to polling 7 months before a single vote is cast is preposterous.
"While FOX is taking a lot of heat, the RNC deserves as much blame for sanctioning this process," he added. Reinforcing that the 5 p.m. discussion could include plenty of mudslinging at the hosts as well as at one another.
Here's how the stage has changed since we started tracking positions in late May.