Fox News Debate is Finally Set

While the normal voter more than likely could care less about a debate for an election that is more than a year away, the political junkies in the press are eating it up.

The buildup to this week's first Republican presidential debate on Fox News has driven passed well by the crazy exit and is closing on the ridiculous one. 

The AP writes that the musical chairs-like rules for participation in Thursday's televised debate required candidates to reach a certain threshold in opinion polls, making national exposure to an interested audience vital at a stage in the campaign when candidates are usually shaking hands in early primary states. And where better to find that audience than on Fox News Channel?

The 17 candidates —only 10 of whom are invited to the prime-time debate — made a total of 273 separate appearances on Fox News in May, June and July, according to a count by liberal-leaning group Media Matters for America. Six hopefuls — Donald Trump, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina and Rick Perry — have appeared 20 times or more each on Fox or Fox Business Channel, the network said. Besides interviews, candidates have joined the panel of talk shows like "Outnumbered" or "The Five."

"It is the most important forum for a Republican running for president," said Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for President George W. Bush's 2004 campaign and now an ABC News analyst.

Fox announced Tuesday afternoon that Trump, Paul, Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Chris Christie were included in the prime-time debate. The remaining candidates will be in the "loser" debate four hours earlier.

Trump, who is leading in the polls, leads in time spent on Fox (just under five hours, Media Matters said). Sean Hannity's prime-time show, which hosted Trump, Cruz and Christie one night last week, has offered the candidates twice as much airtime as any other individual show, Media Matters said.