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Carly Fiorina hoping for a spot on main CNN debate stage

Carly Fiorina thinks she should be in the top-tier Republican primary debate hosted by CNN on September 16 - an event that is restricted to the top 10 candidates according to an average of public polls.

It turns out at least one rival GOP campaign agrees.

"We think it's ridiculous that Carly Fiorina isn't on the debate," Barry Bennett, Ben Carson's campaign manager, told Politico. "She's what, fifth? She should be on the main debate stage."

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"We don't like how far back they're going in the polls," Bennett said of CNN's polling average, which will incorporate surveys from as far back as July 16. "Why does anyone care where someone was in presidential preference polls [three months ago]?"

CNN is holding two events on September 16 - the top tier event will be held at 9 p.m., and it will include the top 10 candidates in an average of public polls released between July 16 and September 10. The other seven candidates, if they cleared one percent in at least three surveys during the same period, will be invited to an earlier debate at 6 p.m.

The two-tier format is similar to that instituted by Fox News last month during the first GOP debate, but not identical - Fox used an average of the five most recent polls, while CNN is will incorporate polls from a much broader time period.

Fiorina was in the second-tier Fox debate on August 6, but she turned in a strong performance during that face-off and has since seen her poll numbers rise.

The problem for her campaign, though, is that her numbers haven't risen enough to offset her poor standing in polls taken before the Fox debate. As a result, her overall average likely will not be high enough to land her on the main debate stage.

"You know, I'm in the top five in every statewide poll. Actually, we do have state primaries not national primaries. And I'm also comfortably in the top ten in every national poll," Fiorina noted last week on Fox News. "So maybe then using all these polls from before August 6th is a little bit like keeping...a football team out of the playoffs because of a preseason game."

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Asked whether she believes CNN can change the rules at this point, Fiorina said, "Oh, yes. I do. And I think the RNC could ask them to change it."

CNN, for its part, has betrayed no willingness to alter its game-plan just over two weeks out from the big night.

"Our criteria are totally appropriate and we have been absolutely transparent about them throughout. If the Fiorina campaign had an issue with them they could have raised it when we published them in May. They did not," a CNN spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. "Revising the criteria on the eve of the debate at the demand of and solely for the benefit of one particular candidate is not something we have done in the past, and we will not do it now."

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