U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s struggling presidential campaign was dealt another setback Monday night when Fox Business Network announced that the Kentucky senator failed to meet the polling criteria to be included in this week’s primetime Republican presidential debate.
Despite Paul’s stated confidence that he would be invited to join the main debate stage Thursday night — less than three weeks before the Iowa caucuses — Fox host Lou Dobbs announced that Paul had qualified for the undercard debate with Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and Rick Santorum.
But it looks as if Paul will be out of the next round of debates altogether
Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he would not participate in the undercard debate, and he and his staff railed against the senator’s exclusion from the main stage.
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Paul’s press office said after the announcement that “by any reasonable criteria, Sen. Paul has a top-tier campaign.”
“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,” the statement read.
Paul had told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade in a late December radio interview that he would refuse to take part in “any kind of second-tier debate.”
“It’s the kids’ table, and at that table you’re not considered to be a competitor, not considered to be having a chance,” Paul said.
Fox Business Network used national polling as well as polls from Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote in the nominating process, to determine the debate lineup.
In a news release following Dobbs’ announcement, the network said that “to qualify, a candidate needs to be either among the top six in an average of the five most recent polls or among the top five in an average of the five most recent Iowa or New Hampshire polls.”
Paul only narrowly made the last Republican debate after CNN changed its admission rules to include the senator.
The debate announcement is the latest blow to Paul’s hopes of winning the Republican presidential nomination.
The RealClearPolitics polling average puts Paul at 2.8 percent nationally, but as the senator has tried to swat away speculation that his campaign is doomed, he repeatedly has questioned the accuracy of the polling, pointing to polls from last year’s Kentucky gubernatorial election that showed Democrat Jack Conway beating Republican Matt Bevin. Bevin won by 9 percentage points.
The Paul family has been through this before.
In 2007, Paul’s father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, was excluded from a candidate forum hosted by Fox News Channel, leading the younger Paul to question the news channel’s credibility.
In an interview with the Bowling Green Daily News from that time, Paul said, “We’re not alone in really questioning Fox’s credibility.”
“The Democrats won’t even debate on Fox anymore since they don’t consider Fox to be an objective news network,” Paul told the paper.