CNBC has yet to clarify the candidates’ criteria for inclusion in its upcoming economy-focused Republican presidential debate on October 28 at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo. However, debate moderator Chuck Todd, who is reportedly involved in determining the debate’s criteria, made some comments on ESPN radio last week that seem to imply that CNBC is designing its criteria to include fewer candidates than were featured in the previous debates on CNN and Fox News.

Let’s just say the goal is to create a threshold that candidates have to meet to qualify for the stage rather than committing to putting 10 candidates on the stage. And I don’t think we should commit to more than 10-candidate debates. You have to be viable. So now we’re in debate three it’s time to show viability and only the viable ones survive,” said Todd.

He added, “You can do it a couple different ways. I don’t believe in setting a set number. I think maybe you come up with ‘oh are you at 5 percent or more in Iowa or New Hampshire’ you can create a sort of floor, no more 4-percenters get in, no more 3-percenters get in.

Politico anonymously cited comments by a senior adviser to a Republican presidential candidate who reportedly said, “Insiders in Washington want to limit the debates because they want their two favorites, Bush and Rubio, to take on Donald Trump. They’re whispering in [RNC Chairman] Reince Priebus’s ear that, ‘The stage is too big, make it smaller.’

The possibility that CNBC and the RNC will cut the number of candidates allowed on the Republican Party debate stage is causing what Politico called a “wave of anxiety” among the campaigns of low-polling Republican candidates.

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RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer said following the CNN debate that he does not think that the CNBC debate will have a separate junior varsity contest for candidates that fail to qualify for the main stage.

Breitbart notes that 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has called on CNBC to announce the debate’s criteria “as soon as possible.

I would want them to release [the criteria] as soon as possible actually, so that if there is any protest there is time to deal with it. It could be the strategy is – wait until the very last minute to release them, there won’t be anytime for protesting, just move on with it – I suspect there may be something to that, I don’t know,” said Carson. He also theorized that CNBC may not be releasing the criteria because “they don’t know what the criteria should be, which is kind of unfair.

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Curt Anderson, a chief strategist to Bobby Jindal’s campaign who believes that the RNC and CNBC are planning to shrink the debate stage to manipulate the 2016 Republican presidential primary, told Breitbart, “[The RNC] is at odds, I think, with the voters by the way who are [thinking] like ‘I want to look at all these candidates and evaluate them.’ What the [RNC’s donors] really want, I think, boils down to Jeb versus Trump, because they like Jeb and have invested in him and think they can get rid of Trump if they get all this riff-raff [candidates] out of the way. My attitude is: Who asked you? I don’t care what they want, and I think they’re having too big of an impact on this whole thing.

People who run real campaigns should be allowed to debate, and the national party shouldn’t be in the business of making the choice of who the nominee is,” said Anderson, who also raised questions about the level of influence that mainstream media outlets and establishment political parties, who can choose the participants of presidential debates by tinkering with their criteria, have over America’s electoral system.

An August Ben Swann Reality Check on CBS46 Atlanta called attention to the fact that the RNC has significant leverage that it can use to manipulate the participants in Republican presidential primary debates and that all taxpayers, including independent voters, are forced to fund the major two parties’ primaries. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.

For more election coverage, click here.

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