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The Fox News GOP Debate Lineup Looks Pretty Set

It may not even come down to the wire. We now know, in all likelihood, the 10 candidates who will be on stage for the first Republican debate of the 2016 primary season, hosted at 9 p.m. Eastern on Thursday by Fox News. The five most recent national live-interview polls put these candidates in the top 10:

  1. Donald Trump: 23.2 percent
  2. Jeb Bush: 12.8 percent
  3. Scott Walker: 10.6 percent
  4. Ben Carson: 6.6 percent
  5. Mike Huckabee: 6.6 percent
  6. Ted Cruz: 6.2 percent
  7. Marco Rubio: 5.2 percent
  8. Rand Paul: 4.8 percent
  9. Chris Christie: 3.4 percent
  10. John Kasich: 2.8 percent

Rick Perry, in 11th place with 2.0 percent, falls just short. Perry can tie or move ahead of Kasich only if some late poll comes in placing Perry in front of Kasich by at least 4 percentage points (or numerous new polls are released, which we don’t expect). Perry leads Kasich in just one of the five polls currently included in the average, and by only 1 percentage point in that survey.

The current standings are such that, even if Fox News rounds to the nearest whole percentage, neither Perry nor Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki or Rick Santorum will make the 9 p.m. debate. They’ll be relegated to the earlier debate at 5 p.m. Eastern.

Two caveats: First, Fox News has been a little sly about its debate criteria, and if organizers throw a last-minute curveball, this list could be off. Second, we don’t expect a raft of new national primary polls that are “recognized by Fox News” to be released today; almost all of the “major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques,” which are the only pollsters Fox News says it will include, have released a survey very recently. But something crazy could always happen. The 2016 Republican primary, though it has barely begun, has already proven that much.

Harry Enten was a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.