2016 Republican Primary Debate: Date, Start Time and Participants for CNN GOP Debate

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Republican presidential candidates will be convening in California on Wednesday for the second debate of the 2015 primary season. CNN, the debate's host, has divided the White House hopefuls into two tiers using the latest poll numbers, inviting the 11 top-polling candidates in the 17-member GOP field to the main debate stage, similar to how Fox News structured its August GOP debate. 

New York businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina are the candidates who made the first-tier cut and are slated to appear on the CNN debate stage on Sept. 16 at 8pm. 

Second-tier candidates can participate in a pre-debate debate. Those expected to appear in the earlier debate are former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.

CNN initially scheduled the debate, housed at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, for 9 p.m. Eastern but moved it an hour earlier, to 8 p.m. Eastern, in order to avoid an hour-long gap between the main event and the second-tier debate, Politico reports. Candidates not invited to the main stage are scheduled to debate from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Eastern.

Last week, CNN said it had tweaked its criteria for candidate inclusion. The network originally said it would invite candidates in the top 10 based on their average poll numbers between July 16 and Sept. 10. CNN has since expanded its debate criteria to also include any candidate who ranks in the top 10 between Aug. 6 and Sept. 10 in order to include candidates whose support among voters expanded after the Fox debate, meaning there could be more than 10 candidates debating during the main show, Politico reports. 

"In the event that any candidate is polling in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls released between Aug. 7 and Sept.10, we will add those candidates to our top tier debate, even if those candidates did not poll in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls between July 16 and Sept. 10," CNN said in a statement. CNN anchor Jake Tapper will helm the debate. 

The network has not revealed how much it is spending to host the debate or what it's charging advertisers, CNN Money reports. The network announced it would stream the debate online for free, the Huffington Post reports.