Donald Trump and Jeb Bush in August during the first Republican debate among the strongest candidates. (Peter Stevens / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Next week’s prime-time Republican presidential debate, sponsored by CNN, will feature 11 candidates, including businesswoman Carly Fiorina, the cable channel announced Thursday.

Fiorina will join front-runner Donald Trump and nine other Republican candidates. The Wednesday event, which will start at 8 p.m. Eastern time, will be at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. This will be the second debate of the 2016 election cycle among the highest-polling GOP hopefuls.

So, who’s in and who’s out?

NPR tells us that with Fiorina and Trump will be …

… former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Just five candidates will be relegated to the earlier 6 p.m. ET debate — referred to as the “happy hour” debate or “kid’s table” by some. Those five include former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore didn’t meet polling standards to even be included in the lower-tier debate.

Fiorina — who was the breakout star of the first debate, even though she didn’t make the main stage — will be included Wednesday thanks to a late rule change by CNN. The network had previously said it would take the average of polls dating back to mid-July — which wouldn’t have captured Fiorina’s late surge. After complaints from both her campaign and many other candidates and strategists, CNN then said last week it would include anyone who registered in the top 10 since the beginning of August.

Her inclusion also gives Republicans a female candidate on the stage — someone who can counter the perception that the GOP can’t appeal to women. Fiorina has also proved to be a salient attack dog against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Fiorina’s presence gives her a chance to confront Trump, who will again be center stage, head on. Even after a Fox News debate performance where he attacked moderator Megyn Kelly and after continuing to make controversial comments, Trump’s support has only grown. In a CNN poll released Thursday, he now takes 32 percent of the vote, and 41 percent of Republicans believe he will be the nominee.

On Thursday he faced a new controversy, after a Rolling Stone article quoted him pointing to Fiorina on TV and exclaiming, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president.” Trump claimed he was talking about her persona.

Read the full article here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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