The final polls have been tabulated and Fox has made a decision as to who's in and who's out of Thursday night's Republican presidential primary debate.
According to FoxNews.com, the top ten qualifiers are:
Real estate magnate Donald Trump; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
And the also-rans:
(F)ormer Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and several others will not be on the prime-time, 9 p.m. ET stage. The seven who did not make the top 10 will be invited to a separate 5 p.m. ET debate. Aside from Perry and Santorum, this includes Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; former HP head Carly Fiorina; South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham; former New York Gov. George Pataki; and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
The New York Times noted that Fox's process of taking the top ten winners in national polling has been "fraught with complaints" and that the results are that "a sitting governor, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and a sitting senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, will be relegated to the second-tier event." While a carnival barker gets center stage, that is.
Media Matters was, not surprisingly, more cutting in its analysis. It noted that Fox not only picked the winners but chose which polls to pick from. The result is that the real winner of the debate will be Fox and Roger Ailes:
As Media Matters has documented, candidates have been flocking to the network to get face time with its influential hosts and reach its conservative audience, which in turn boosts interest in Fox. In some cases, candidates and groups supporting them have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Fox ads to help bolster their image and hopefully increase their national polling ahead of the debate.
Media Matters quoted Eric Engberg, a former CBS News correspondent who covered presidential campaigns from 1976 to 2000, as saying, "This whole thing is a sham."
"It's obvious that the early primary states and the Iowa caucuses have suffered a blow from the way Fox is managing things," Engberg added. "There is less focus on Iowa and New Hampshire because all of the candidates' staffs felt the most important thing is going to be this televised debate on Fox, especially if it is going to be the first ... We can call it the Roger Ailes primary. One television executive has taken control of the process of deciding. It has a smell of one-man rule about it."
I'll be watching and live blogging the whole thing, starting with the "kids table" debate at 5 PM ET. Do join us!
Whatever tune Jabba the Ailes plays, the GOPiggies will dance to it.