CNN: Christie returns to main GOP presidential debate stage

The GOP's Donald Trump Problem

WASHINGTON (AP) -- CNN is inviting Gov. Chris Christie back to prime-time in the upcoming Republican presidential debate.

The New Jersey governor, who had been dropped from the main stage during the last debate, is one of nine Republican presidential candidates to qualify for the network's prime-time event on Tuesday. Also among them: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who was "on the bubble" of qualifying late last week, the network said.

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Front-runner Donald Trump will appear at center stage, flanked by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz, who is surging in Iowa. Other GOP hopefuls who qualified for the main stage include Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Click through images from the Nov. 10 GOP debate:

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GOP Debate Nov. 10
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CNN: Christie returns to main GOP presidential debate stage
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) talk during a commercial break at the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) waves at the start of the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush (L) and Donald Trump (R) look on as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre on November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) speaks while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) looks on while Donald Trump looks on during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R) and Jeb Bush take the stage at the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R), Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Carly Fiorina, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) take the stage in the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks while Ben Carson looks on the during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R), Jeb Bush, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) take the stage at the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R) speaks while Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) look on during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush (R) and John Kasich (L) participate in the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by Fox Business and The Wall Street Journal November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. AFP PHOTO / JOSHUA LOTT (Photo credit should read Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates (L-R) John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul stand on stage during the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by Fox Business and The Wall Street Journal November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.AFP PHOTO / JOSHUA LOTT (Photo credit should read Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
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Qualifying candidates were required to meet one of three criteria in polls conducted between October 29 and December 13 that are recognized by CNN: an average of at least 3.5 percent nationally or at least 4 percent in Iowa or New Hampshire, the first states to with contests toward the Republican nomination.

The network says lower-polling GOP hopefuls will debate earlier Tuesday night. They are former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki.

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