CNN is using a system that may knock Carly Fiorina out of a chance to appear with the first-tier candidates for the second GOP presidential debate.

Fiorina has surged in the polls after her stellar performance in the first debate, where she appeared with the second-tier candidates and nevertheless managed to do an outstanding job. But it may not get her to the adults' table because of CNN's methodology:

According to the debate methodology CNN released earlier this year, the news station will be weighing polls from July 16 to Sept. 10 to determine who among the 17 Republican candidates will be selected for the 10 spots in the “top tier” debate.

“It acts as sort of an anchor on those people who had done poorly early and a bit of a parachute for those people who have done well early,” Cliff Zukin, a Rutgers University political scientist told The Hill.

Prior to the Fox News August debates, the former Hewlett-Packard executive was polling toward the bottom of the pack, with about 1 percent or less support. After what analysts consider to be a strong debate showing, Mrs. Fiorina’s poll numbers have jumped to 5 percent. However, when averaged together with the earlier polls, unless she maintains or improves her polling gains, she may not make it to the main stage for CNN’s September debate.

“It’s definitely a concern when these polls are used and when the time period is certainly a factor,” Katie Hughes, communications director for the CARLY for America super PAC, told The Hill.

Although it is unknown how many polls will be released between now and CNN’s Sept. 10 deadline, analysis done by The Hill finds that based on the 11 polls conducted since July 16, the main debate stage in September will likely look the same as the one in August, with Mrs. Fiorina absent from the main stage.

The system will give more stability to the field, but in an odd way it almost says, hey, these debates aren't really that important–you can do brilliantly and it doesn't mean a thing. Chicks on the Right says the same thing:

So… what's the point of doing these debates at all, if they're not going to weigh the poll numbers AFTER each debate heavier than the ones that came before? Debate performance ABSOLUTELY should be a considering factor when deciding which candidates to put on the main stage in the next one. If you do well in the debate, you should move up. If you suck, you should move down. What in the cr– is CNN smoking???

Everybody I've talked to who paid attention – whether or not they're in Chick-land – says that Carly kicked butt in the early debate. She should have been in the Fox News prime-time debate and she should TOTALLY be in the next one!

I'm not sure what to make of CNN's criteria.

From purely a marketing point, CNN is making a mistake. I mean, don't these people know anything about ratings? (Oh, wait–this is CNN.) It will disappoint a lot of CNN watchers not to see Fiorina after her remarkable surge, and Fiorina and Trump on the stage together would be double ratings bait. And seeing the cast of characters change would show the watchers that the debates really do matter, though the argument for ratings for a longer period can be made.

Still, I don't think being at the first-tier debate matters that much, at least not quite at this point. If Fiorina doesn't get at the big table, she can still score another victory. Of course, at some point she does have to appear on the big stage and her supporters are right to complain.