NEW YORK - ABC News is eliminating Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter and Democrats Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel from its prime-time presidential debates Saturday night because they did not meet benchmarks for their support.
The Republican debate three days before the New Hampshire primary will include Iowa caucus winner Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. It starts at 7 p.m. EDT.
Shortly after that 90-minute forum, Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Bill Richardson will take the stage at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson will moderate both debates.
The network set up benchmarks to narrow the field. Candidates had to meet at least one of three criteria: place first through fourth in Iowa, poll 5 percent or higher in one of the last four major New Hampshire surveys, or poll 5 percent or higher in one of the last four major national surveys.
ABC said the rules were quite inclusive, and that none of the candidates objected ahead of time. Its decision was made easier by Democrats Joe Biden and Chris Dodd dropping out of the race Thursday night.
"In previous debates where the stage was more crowded you had to make sure all of the candidates got equal time," said David Chalian, ABC News political director. "Here you will have more time to go in depth on the issues."