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Debates could feature a limiited number of candidates

A partnership between Leadership Florida, the Florida Press Association and the Florida Public Broadcasting Service announced today that it would hold presidential debates on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24. in advance of Florida's Jan. 29th presidential primary. The Republican debate would come on Jan. 23, followed by the Democrats on Jan. 24th. The debates will be held on the campus of a university or college, but a location has not been finalized.

The number of candidates, however, who show up could be limited. Not only does the candidate have to show up on the primary ballot, they must have at least 10 percent support among likely voters polled by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. That 10 percent margin can include the margin of error. The poll used will be the one selected by organizers. This is avoid a last-minute entry ala Max Linn, who sued to get added to one of last fall's debates between Charlie Crist and Jim Davis. Linn commissioned his own poll and used the numbers to convince a judge to add him to the debate.

Debate organizers say invitations have been extended to six candidates who look like they will meet this criteria: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain on the GOP side and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards on the Democratic side.

And speaking of Democrats, organizers are confident that the Democrats will work something out regarding the Jan. 29th primary. National officials have threatened to sanction any candidate that actively campaigns in Florida in advance of the primary because the date violates party rules.