Ted Cruz Moves up to Stand Beside Donald Trump at Center of GOP Debate Stage

Chris Christie is back on the main stage.

ByALANA ABRAMSON
December 13, 2015, 5:05 PM

— -- Nine candidates will be on the main stage for the last Republican presidential debate of 2015, CNN announced this morning.

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Christie Christie, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Rand Paul will all be taking part in the main debate this Tuesday in Las Vegas.

As the frontrunner, Donald Trump still occupies the podium in the center of the stage. But this time, he will be flanked by Ted Cruz as well as Ben Carson. Last time Rubio and Carson were on either side of Trump.

The podium configuration comes as new polling released this weekend shows Cruz inching up on Trump nationally and giving him strong competition in Iowa, where the two are neck-and-neck.

Chris Christie, who failed to make the main stage last time due to low polling numbers, is back on that stage, undoubtedly helped by several prominent New Hampshire endorsements. Rand Paul will also be on the debate stage -- it was originally unclear whether he would make the cut or not.

In order to qualify for the main stage, candidates had to average at least 3.5 percent nationally in polls recognized by CNN, and at least 4 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire.

CNN reported that Paul was "saved at the 11th hour" with a Fox News poll released this morning showing him with 5 percent of support in Iowa.

Paul is averaging 3.67 percent in Iowa, according to an ABC News analysis using CNN's debate criteria.

To qualify for the undercard debate, held just before the main debate, candidates needed to hit 1 percent in at least four national, Iowa or New Hampshire polls recognized by CNN.

After getting bumped entirely from the Fox Business Network undercard debate, Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki now qualify for that stage. They will be joined by Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Jim Gilmore failed to make the cut for either debate.

ABC News' Ryan Struyk contributed reporting.

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