Updated with Rand Paul statement, 6 PM: Rand Paul says he’s boycotting Thursday night’s GOP primary debate after being relegated to the kids table. “I won’t participate in anything that’s not first tier because we have a first-tier campaign,” the Kentucky senator told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer moments before Fox Business Network announced that Paul and Carly Fiorina are not among the seven candidates slated for the primetime debate.
“By any reasonable criteria, Sen. Paul has a top-tier campaign,” Paul’s campaign said in a statement of protest. “He will not let the media decide the tiers of this race and will instead take his message directly to the voters of New Hampshire and Iowa.
“Multiple national polls including CNN, CBS, Fox, Marist and others have him in 5th or 6th place, one had him just a single point out of 4th,” the statement continued. “In multiple polls he scores ahead of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina. In yesterday’s Marist Iowa poll, he was alone in 5th place. In fact his numbers are on the rise in recent weeks.”
Fox News previously said Thursday’s debate in South Carolina would include the top six candidates based on the average of the five most recent national polls, as well as those who finish in the top five in Iowa or New Hampshire. The news operation said Paul did not meet that criteria. Those who did are, in order: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich.
Six polls were used rather than five because the earliest two polls, completed December 13, were done concurrently.
PREVIOUSLY: Carly Fiorina is heading back to the kids table for Thursday’s GOP debate. Fox Business Network said today that Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich have qualified for the main event. Joining Fiorina for the opening-act debate are Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Moments before FBN announced who had qualified for which debate, during its Lou Dobbs Tonight, Paul had told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he would not show up if FBN sent him to the kids’ table.
To qualify for the primetime debate, a candidate needed to be either among the top six in an average of the five most recent national poll, or among the top five in an average of the five most recent Iowa or New Hampshire polls, FBN said.
Last time the GOP hopefuls debated on FBN, back in November, the always-quotable but low-polling Christie was demoted to the kids table; ditto Huckabee. Fiorina and Paul made the big show, joining Trump, Carson, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, and Kasich. Lindsay Graham and George Pataki got cut altogether. The event scored by far the biggest ratings in the network’s history.
Since then, the Republican hopefuls also squared off on CNN at the Venetian in Vegas. At that debate, Graham and Pataki returned to the kids table, while Christie got to go back to the primetime debate.