It looks like a new face will be joining the next prime time Republican presidential debate. And it's a she.
Thank heavens. Because she definitely belongs.
Sure, Donald Trump grabbed most of the media's attention after the first debate double-billing on Aug. 6, but it was former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina who many folks said won the night — without sharing the stage with the upper tier candidates.
Thanks to the polling metrics Fox News used to divide the GOP field into undercards and main event competitors, Carly was relegated to last month's Happy Hour debate, which primarily featured 2012 also-rans.
In an empty arena that more than one commenter referred to as "depressing," Carly shined brightly. So brightly that later in the evening, during the prime time event, viewers and pundits alike wondered how in the world she wasn't included with the frontrunners.
Well, unless something changes drastically very soon, the next headliner debate, scheduled for Sept. 16 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, will feature Fiorina.
The second round of debates will air on CNN, and whatever you think of the network, it made the right call on this. No, Carly won't be taking someone's position. An 11th spot is opening up, thanks to a lack of fresh polling.
According to a CNN statement earlier this week, only three national polls have been released since Aug. 6. That's not enough to make any difference in the debate landscape, especially since those outcomes were to be included in a larger pool of poll results that stretches back to July 16, more than two weeks before the first debates when few people could pronounce "Fiorina."
The network says that when it was laying out the rules for the telecast, it expected the amount of polling to follow historical norms. In 2007, there were 16 national polls conducted during August and September. In 2011, there were 15. CNN is now guessing only two more will take place by next Thursday's cutoff.
That's five over a two-month span, if you're keeping count.
To compensate for 2015's deficiency, CNN will "adjust the criteria to ensure the next debate best reflects the most current state of the national race. In the event that any candidate is polling in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls released between Aug. 7 and Sept. 10, we will add those candidates to our top tier debate."
Her post-debate surge in the polls will get Carly on the main stage for round two.
The reason this is big news is that there's a good chance another solid Carly performance will drastically affect the race.
She'll prove an immediate threat to the lower-rung candidates of the top tier. Since there's no reason to think the third round will accommodate 11 podiums, when the field contracts to 10 (or less), someone will get squeezed out.
Chris Christie, beware.
Carly could also throw a wrench in the Trump Show. The Donald has built his campaign upon all things crass, including a breathtaking amount of unveiled sexism. So far, he's gotten away with his foul treatment of Fox News' Megan Kelly, but it might be a whole different ball of wax if he goes after a bona fide presidential candidate the same way.
If there are fireworks between the two, they will likely be ignited over immigration, especially birthright citizenship. There is a chasm separating them on this front, and if she is able to lure Trump out to fight on it — which shouldn't be hard — watch out.
So what does this development mean for Fiorina in the long run? There's really no way to tell, but don't be surprised if she's the race's key influencer going into the fall after September's debate.
David Allen Martin is a syndicated columnist who writes from Chattanooga. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @DMart423.