DUBUQUE, Iowa – In a matter of days, Fox News will host the first televised Republican presidential debate of the 2016 presidential season, and every candidate knows the stakes.
The debate is broken into two heats: the preliminary contest at 5 p.m., and the main event during prime time at 9 p.m. on Thursday. The debate will be broadcast from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knows the importance of making the prime-time fight; he knows he is right on the cusp.
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Fox is determining the top 10 candidates based on an average of major public polls. Current polling shows Christie closely cloistered for the 10th and final slot with Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“We will be there on Thursday night, I’m confident,” Christie said when asked by LifeZette if he thought he would make the top 10 cutoff.
Christie has been working overtime to earn that spot.
He has been on Fox News nearly a dozen times during the course of the week. The New Jersey governor’s hustled not only in Iowa, but New Hampshire as well, sharing his views and meeting with voters.
At the Shot Tower Inn in Dubuque, named after the city landmark where bullets were made during the Civil War, Christie on Friday laid it out before more than a hundred people in a cramped, hot room. Unlike many other candidates trudging through Iowa, Christie was all business, dressed in a white shirt and tie.
“Definitely liked Christie today. He was one of my top runners but he has moved up even higher after listening to him.”
The governor told those gathered that his first action as president would be to issue an executive order rescinding all of President Obama’s regulations pertaining to business. His second would be to rescind all other executive orders by Obama.
Christie called Obama a “liar” about the Iran deal, which was fodder for the crowd.
Shirley Herzog, who is retired and lives in Dubuque, said Christie is her man.
“Definitely liked Christie today. He was one of my top runners but he has moved up even higher after listening to him today,” she said.
Will Shirley Herzog be caucusing for Christie come February? “Yes, I will.”
Should Christie be included in the Fox debates? “Oh, definitely!” she said.
Will Herzog be caucusing for Christie come February? “Yes, I will.”
Another person impressed by Christie, but not yet sold on him, is retired executive Ed Mulrooney, also of Dubuque. He’s been to events held by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and most recently, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
“I came here because in Iowa, we get to see all the different candidates,” said Mulrooney. “I had met Governor Christie years ago. I went to the same college as him (the University of Delaware, Newark). New Jersey is an extremely difficult state to run, I know that. It’s a really blue state, and if he can win two times that says an awful lot.”
Asked if he was impressed with Christie, Mulrooney said, “Yes. He talked about some issues that were near and dear to my heart. He talked about immigration and medical services and how defensive medicine is practiced by doctors.”
Would he consider caucusing for him at this point? “My mind is not made up,” Mulrooney said. “But after listening to him, I will give him a second shot.”
So it was clear that all along the Shot Tower, in Dubuque, Iowa, Christie had hit them with his best shot.
The last-minute hustle could be well worth it. The latest polling averages from Real Clear Politics show Kasich in ninth place overall with 3.5 percent, Christie in 10th with 3 percent, and Perry in 11th but nipping at Christie’s heels at 2.5 percent. One strong last poll for Perry and he could edge into the top 10 for the prime time debate, displacing Christie.
Like Christie, the former Texas governor has worked hard in recent weeks to stay in the Fox News limelight. Perry joined the panel of “The Five” the week before the debate to make his pitch. He outlined how his success as Texas governor makes him suitable for The White House.
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“This country is about second chances.” Perry said, explaining why this time around he will do better. His 2012 presidential dreams faltered when he suspended his campaign on Jan. 19, 2012.
Follow @LifeZette on Twitter for live debate coverage and commentary from PoliZette staff Thursday Aug. 6th at 5pm and 9pm EST.