2016 presidential debates

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See winners and losers in the first and second debates at Talk:2016 presidential debates.
See also 2016 presidential election.

The second presidential debate for the 2016 election was held on Wednesday, September 16, 2015, at the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, California, and set a ratings record for CNN with 1 out of every 7 American homes watching.[1] The moderator and one additional questioner was from CNN; a third questioner was from conservative Salem Radio. The transcript of the debate is here. Eleven candidates will be in this debate, including Carly Fiorina, while a separate debate among a handful of candidates aired earlier:

Candidate Comment
Donald Trump center stage
Ben Carson #2 in polling, expected to be soft-spoken again
Jeb Bush #3 in polling with much to prove
Marco Rubio some said he won the first debate
Ted Cruz works hard
Scott Walker falling in the polls
Rand Paul will try to knock out Trump
Mike Huckabee perhaps the smoothest debater
John Kasich talked about having attended a same-sex marriage at last debate
Chris Christie will drop out and endorse Jeb Bush
Carly Fiorina expect humor, and criticism of Trump

The second debate is expected to more contentious, particularly in criticisms by numerous candidates of Donald Trump. "I’ll be attacked. I guess I’m going into a lion’s den," Trump said about this upcoming debate.[2]

The first presidential debate for the 2016 election cycle broke ratings records with an audience of 24 million viewers, making it the highest-rated primary debate in history.[3] Held on Thursday, August 6, the debate was conducted by Fox News Channel for the top ten in the polling among Republican candidates. The debate transcript is available online.[4]

Roster for first debate based on polling

The final roster of the top ten debaters, chosen on August 4, was the same as polling indicated on August 2 based on an average of the last five major national polls. The polls used by the Fox News Channel were Bloomberg, CBS News, Fox News, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University.

These top ten candidates are the following, with the following average poll numbers as reported by NBC and WSJ (not Fox):[5]

  • Trump - 19.8%
  • Walker - 13.2%
  • Bush - 13%
  • Paul - 6.4%
  • Carson - 6.4%
  • Rubio - 6.2%
  • Huckabee - 5.8%
  • Cruz - 5.8%
  • Christie - 3.2%
  • Kasich - 3.2%

Based on polling the second tier of candidates—who would be excluded from the prime-time debate, but allowed to participate in an earlier debate at 5pm ET—are:

  • Perry - 2.6%
  • Santorum - 1.4%
  • Jindal - 1.4%
  • Fiorina - 0.6%
  • Pataki - 0.6%
  • Graham- 0.4%
  • Gilmore - 0%

Schedule for GOP

  • Aug. 6, 2015 in Cleveland, hosted by Fox News. This debate broke the record as the most-watched cable show of all time: 24 million viewers.
  • Sept. 16, 2015, at the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, California, hosted by Salem Radio and CNN. The threshold for participation is at least 1% in the polls, and sixteen of the 17 Republican candidates (all except Gov. Jim Gilmore) have been invited. Several of the lower-polling candidates will be separated into the lower tier for a separate debate.
  • Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colorado, hosted by CNBC
  • November 2015, in Wisconsin, hosted by the Wall Street Journal and Fox Business
  • Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada, hosted by Salem Radio and CNN again
  • January 14, 2016, hosted by the Fox Business Network
  • January 28, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa, hosted by the Fox News Channel
  • Feb. 6, 2016, in Manchester, New Hampshire, hosted by ABC News and the IJReview
  • Feb. 13, 2016, in South Carolina, hosted by CBS News
  • Feb. 26, 2016, in Houston, Texas, hosted by NBC, the National Review, and Telemundo
  • March 10, 2016, in Florida, hosted by CNN and Salem Radio again

Additional possibilities are another debate hosted by the Fox News Channel, and a debate hosted by conservative media.


The Democrats did not have any debates before Oct. 13, 2015, in Nevada, to be hosted by CNN, and plan a total of only 6 debates.

Debates for the General Election

Here are the debates scheduled for the general election in 2016:[6]

  • The first presidential debate will be held on September 26, at Wright State University, located in Dayton, Ohio.
  • The vice presidential debate will be held on October 4, at Longwood University located in Farmville, Virginia.
  • The second presidential debate will be held on October 9, at Washington University located in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • The third presidential debate will be held on October 19, at University of Nevada, located in Las Vegas, Nevada.


  1. https://money.cnn.com/2015/09/17/media/cnn-republican-debate-ratings/
  2. https://www.voanews.com/content/trump-braces-for-attacks-in-second-republican-debate/2963474.html
  3. https://money.cnn.com/2015/08/07/media/gop-debate-fox-news-ratings/
  4. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/transcript-of-the-2015-gop-debate-9-pm/
  5. https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/trump-surges-new-nbc-news-wsj-poll-n402036
  6. http://time.com/4046890/2016-presidential-debates/