Assuming that Fox News does not round poll results when deciding who is in the top 10 (the network continues to be unclear about whether some pollsters will be excluded and whether results will be rounded), Christie could be just a poll or two away from watching the first debate on TV. Christie was in 11th place based on polls released through July 13. With the candidates so close together, random noise in the polls can affect the standings. Also, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich declaring his candidacy July 21, he could easily receive a bounce and pull moderate voters from Christie.
Not appearing at the debate would cut out the heart of Christie’s reported strategy: Use the debates to showcase his tough-guy persona. It would be yet another blow to a candidate whose stature has been slipping for over a year and a half.