This post has been corrected.
Each time there's a Republican debate, the GOP field is one person smaller, making us optimistic that the party will settle on its nominee in only 14 more debates. Or, at the rate of once per month, next November -- shortly after the general election.
The next debate is being hosted Oct. 28 by CNBC, which on Wednesday released its criteria for who would appear in the two debates that night. Yes, that's right, two debates; the rumors that the undercard/kiddie-table debate would be scrapped were incorrect.
In contrast to its predecessors, CNBC is only using polls conducted by or in partnership with the major news networks and Bloomberg, and only ones released between Sept. 17 and Oct. 21. So far, only four polls qualify. In those, a candidate needs to have hit 1 percent at least once to make either debate and to be averaging 3 percent (when rounded to the nearest integer) to make the main stage.
Which gives us a stage that looks like this:
Correction: George Pataki hit 1 percent in the Fox News poll that came out last week, which wasn't reflected in the first version of this graphic. He's in!
There's been some reshuffling on that main stage. (Again, we're assuming here that the highest-polling candidates will be closer to the middle.) As a reminder, here's what CNN's stage looked like by their standards shortly before the second Republican debate. A lot has changed!
So the way it looks now, the undercard debate will feature an hour-plus of Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Rick Santorum fighting over things. The same as the last junior debate, mind you, but so far without the guy who most people thought was the most interesting, Lindsey Graham.
The interesting thing about the main participants, besides the fact that Trump might well have Ben Carson on one side of him and Carly Fiorina on the other, is Rand Paul. Paul gets in by the skin of his teeth right now, rounded up to 3 points. Three more polls at 2 percent, and he's booted downstairs. (The undercard folks are safe, by the way. They only needed one 1-percent-or-more poll in the required time period and have already done so.)
As we've seen before, this will change. There are only four polls in the mix right now, meaning that a few more polls could shift things a lot. Still time, Lindsey Graham!
But not much.