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By Kurtis Lee, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

As Republicans look to winnow down a crowded field of presidential hopefuls, next Tuesday’s fourth televised debate will offer a shake-up in what’s become a topsy-turvy primary season.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was once seen as a GOP front runner, but whose “tell it like it is” campaign has failed to gain much momentum, will have to settle for the so-called “happy hour” debate that will precede the main event. So will former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses when he sought the party’s nomination in 2008.

Both men failed to qualify for the main debate, which will feature eight candidates, because their support in an average of four recent polls fell below 2.5 percent. The qualification rules were set by Fox Business Network, which will host the debate in Milwaukee along with The Wall Street Journal.

In each of the past three debates Christie and Huckabee have joined the top-tier candidates in the main debate, but will now join former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in the early round.

Some candidates fared even worse. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a foreign policy hawk who has offered feisty rhetoric in each of the past “happy hour” debates, failed to make even that stage. Also left out of next week’s undercard debate is former New York Gov. George Pataki. Neither received 1 percent support in even one of the four polls used to winnow the field.

The four surveys were by The Wall St. Journal and NBC News, Quinnipiac University, Investors Business Daily and Fox News.

Donald Trump will hold center stage at the debate, just edging out Ben Carson. Marco Rubio came in third in the average of the four polls.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie answers a question from the audience during a campaign town hall meeting at Sayde’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill in Salem, New Hampshire August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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