Fiorina Surges in the Polls, but It May Be Too Late for the Debate

Carly Fiorina
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks at the Sirius XM presidential candidate forum during the Republican National Committee (RNC) summer meeting in Cleveland, Ohio August 5. Brian Snyder/Reuters

Carly Fiorina didn't make the prime-time cut for the first Republican presidential primary debate, but that was August 6 and ever since she has been climbing in the polls.

The 2016 presidential hopeful now sits at 10 percent voter support, according to Public Policy Polling, just one point behind Jeb Bush. That puts her in fifth place among the GOP candidates, by that group's count.

Real Clear Politics, meanwhile, has her at 7.3 percent, ahead of Bush but behind Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Though she isn't in the lead, she has almost doubled her support since earlier this month: On August 10, Real Clear had her at 4.5 percent.

In that first GOP event, Fiorina was booted to the kiddie-table debate, among the seven lowest-polling contenders; the top 10 were given the prime time slot. Of the seven junior varsity options, most considered Fiorina the clear winner—even though she left her closing speech on a printer before the event. She ended up delivering it anyhow.

Even with the recent boost, though, Fiorina may not qualify for CNN's main GOP debate, scheduled for September 16.

According to a count by Carly for America, Fiorina has polled in the top 10 nationally since the last debate and has even broken into the top five on state-level polls. But that's just since August 6, and CNN's methodology for picking which candidates qualify for the main event versus the kiddie table includes polls from July 16 to September 10.

"The first 10 candidates–ranked from highest to lowest in polling order from an average of all qualifying polls released between July 16 and September 10 who satisfy the criteria requirements outlined in this document–will be invited to participate in 'Segment B' of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate," CNN explains in its criteria statement, issued May 21.

For CNN, this seems like a pure numbers game: The network is averaging numbers and developing a ranking system thereafter. But Fiorina claims CNN wouldn't budge on its rules because she's the GOP's most serious threat to Hillary Clinton, who is leading in the Democractic primary race.

"The mainstream media is doing everything they can to keep Carly out of the debate because they know Carly is Hillary's fiercest and most effective critic," Fiorina's camp wrote in an email to voters. "Rather than standing with the conservative grassroots that are supporting Carly, the RNC is standing with the Clinton News Network."

Fiorina's campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment. CNN said it is too early to comment because the poll numbers will be tabulated until September 10.