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The 'Happy Hour' debate is back

CNN released a trailer on Thursday for the second GOP primary debate, to be held on Sept. 16 in California, and revealed that once again, the lower-tier candidates will be relegated to a debate which will start hours before the main event.

Candidates who are in the top 10 average of recognized polls from July 16 through Sept. 10 will participate in a primetime debate airing at 9 p.m. ET. The rest of the candidates, those who have registered at least one percent in three national polls, will appear in an earlier debate at 6 p.m. ET.

The amount of time between the two debates is especially problematic for a candidate like Carly Fiorina, who did well in Fox News' earlier debate (which was four hours ahead of the primetime debate) and is angling to make it to the main stage for the second round.

Fiorina is charging that the Republican National Committee should be doing more to ensure that the debate stage represents the true top 10 candidates. At issue, her campaign says, is that CNN should not be giving as much weight to the earlier polls conducted before the first debate. Fiorina began surging in the polls after the first debate, but it's unlikely that enough polls would be conducted, or that Fiorina's surge will be strong enough, to push her into the top ten.

If the debate were held today, the candidates who would be in the 9p.m. debate are Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, John Kasich and Chris Christie. Those in the 6p.m. debate would be Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, George pataki, and Lindsey Graham.

UPDATE (10:15p.m.):

In a statement, a CNN spokesperson said that the debate criteria will not be adjusted due to FEC guidelines, but that the network believes they are fair.

"CNN published the criteria for the CNN-Reagan Library debate on May 20th. It will encompass polling data from three weeks prior to the first debate and five weeks following. Federal Election Commission guidelines make it clear that these criteria cannot be changed after they have been published. We believe that our approach is a fair and effective way to deal with the highest number of candidates we have ever encountered," the spokesperson said.

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