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Cruz Takes GOP Lead Over Trump, Chris Christie To Return To Main Stage At CNN Debate

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- CNN is inviting Gov. Chris Christie back to prime-time in the upcoming Republican presidential debate.

The New Jersey governor, who had been dropped from the main stage during the last debate, is one of nine Republican presidential candidates to qualify for the network's prime-time event on Tuesday. Also among them: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who was "on the bubble" of qualifying late last week, the network said.

In a CBS News/New York Times poll last week, Christie was polling at 3 percent nationally for the Republican nomination, which tied him for sixth. Christie had been at 1 percent in the same poll in late October.

Front-runner Donald Trump will appear at center stage, flanked by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz, who is surging in Iowa. Other GOP hopefuls who qualified for the main stage include Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

A new poll released this weekend from the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics shows Cruz has a ten point lead over Trump and an even bigger lead over Ben Carson among Iowa Republicans. Cruz's poll surge is being pushed along by evangelicals and Tea party conservatives, CBS2's Brian Webb reported.

Earlier in the week Cruz predicted he would inherit the anti-establishment vote.

"I believe that gravity will bring both of those campaigns down and I think the lion's share of their supporters come to us," Cruz said.

Trump also targeted Cruz while campaigning over the weekend.

"When you look at the way he's dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there like a -- you know, frankly, like a bit of a maniac," Trump said.

Qualifying candidates were required to meet one of three criteria in polls conducted between Oct. 29 and Dec. 13 that are recognized by CNN: an average of at least 3.5 percent nationally or at least 4 percent in Iowa or New Hampshire, the first states to with contests toward the Republican nomination.

The network says lower-polling GOP hopefuls will debate earlier Tuesday night. They are former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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