Fox News to Use Polling Data to Pick GOP Presidential Hopefuls for South Carolina Debate

Fox News will have a say in deciding which Republican presidential candidates participate in next month's debate in South Carolina.

State Party chairman Katon Dawson and a spokesman for the news channel said Thursday that they had agreed on a criteria, including polling numbers, for choosing which of the 10 GOP candidates will take part in the May 15 debate.

"We understand there's not room for everybody on a nationwide political stage for a Republican debate," Dawson said.

Marty Ryan, executive producer of political programming for Fox News Channel, said the polling criteria would ensure "that serious candidates were taking part in our debate."

The party sent a letter to the candidates saying they must have filed papers establishing an exploratory committee or full-blown candidacy and paid the fees associated with the state primary.

They also must have "garnered at least 1 percent in recent state and national polls leading up to the registration deadline, as determined by Fox News Channel and the South Carolina Republican Party," according to Rob Godfrey, the state party's communications director.

In a variety of national and state polls, seven of the 10 candidates hover around 1 percent or less. Only Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney easily meet the criteria based on polling.

The standard has the potential to bar several candidates from the debate and anger the lesser-known GOP hopefuls.

Dawson said the criteria was jointly developed so "we wouldn't have people who were just willing to pay a filing fee and think that they could show up and be on the stage. There are a lot of people who would like to be able to vent their special interests on a presidential stage."

"If you're not in the poll number and you haven't met the criteria, no, you won't be able to get on the stage," he said.

State parties run the presidential primary balloting in early voting South Carolina. Presidential hopefuls must file with the state GOP and pay their primary entry fee by May 1 to qualify to participate in the May 15 debate in Columbia. Giuliani was the first to do so last week. McCain did so on Thursday.

All 10 Republican candidates will be participating in the first Republican debate next Thursday at the Reagan Library in California.