- The Washington Times - Monday, January 11, 2016

Sen. Rand Paul and businesswoman Carly Fiorina missed the cut for this week’s prime-time Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, Fox Business Network announced Monday, dealing a blow to their presidential aspirations three weeks out from the first binding votes in the Republican nomination race.

The cable news channel announced Monday night on the “Lou Dobbs Tonight” show that tycoon Donald Trump will take center stage in the 9 p.m. Thursday debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center along with Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida.

The candidates rounding out the prime-time lineup are retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Mr. Paul, meanwhile, is being relegated to the 6 p.m. undercard debate, along with Mrs. Fiorina, who has failed to capitalize on her widely praised early debate performances and fallen in polls.

But Mr. Paul told CNN that he would not accept the invitation to participate in the second-tier debate because he doesn’t view himself as a second-tier candidate.
“I won’t participate in anything that’s not first-tier because we have a first-tier campaign,” he said.



So Mrs. Fiorina will join former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania — the past two winners of the Iowa caucuses — in the earlier forum.

The news marked a big disappointment for Mr. Paul in particular, who entered the race with high hopes of building upon the success of his father, libertarian icon Ron Paul, during his 2012 bid for president.

But those hopes have yet to pan out.

Republican analysts said Mr. Paul has struggled to break out because of stiff competition for the anti-establishment mantle in the race, the increased focus on national security and the lingering sense that he was too willing to work with Republican establishment leaders in Washington.

“His candidacy has seemingly been over for a long time,” said Republican strategist Kevin Sheridan. “It just never took off. I think the moment was pre-ISIS, and for any kind of chance it would have had to not be a national security election.

“Whatever you want to say about the libertarian strain of the Republican Party, this wasn’t the time for Rand Paul,” Mr. Sheridan said.

Matt Welch, editor-in-chief of Reason, a libertarian magazine, said the younger Mr. Paul is competing in a tougher field than his father did in 2012 and that he approaches politics in a much different manner.

“He was never going to have the core following of his father, and that is because his father inspires kind of a frenzied following and Rand’s game is different,” Mr. Welch said.

“Rand is trying to mainstream libertarian ideas, while Ron was never interested in the mainstream,” Mr. Welch said. “Rand wants to know how far can we push it. Ron starts from the far edges and tries to make what seems out there eventually seem kind of normal. And those are just two different messages and attracting different people.”

The debates this month — Thursday in North Charleston, South Carolina, and Jan. 28 in Des Moines, Iowa — will help fuel the drive toward the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, which kick off the nomination race and set the table for New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary Feb. 9.

Knowing that, the Paul campaign staged a last-minute public relations blitz Monday before the announcement, arguing in a press release that the Kentucky Republican should be included given his standing in recent polls and that he is a “serious contender for the nomination.”

“He expects to be on the stage this week because he has qualified to do so and because he has a top-tier campaign,” said Doug Stafford, a senior Paul adviser. “He is on the ballot in every state. He has over 1,000 precinct captains in Iowa and a huge 500-person leadership team in New Hampshire.”

Some in the party say the Republican National Committee has ceded too much power to the networks when it comes to deciding who gets to participate in the prime-time debates.

The Paul camp reiterated that argument after receiving the bad news, arguing that polls “are at best an estimation and include a standard of error that the media and the RNC are ignoring.”

“To exclude candidates on faulty analysis is to disenfranchise the voter,” the Paul camp said. “Creating ‘tiers’ based on electoral results of real votes might make sense, but creating ‘tiers’ on bad science is irresponsible.”

Fox Business Network said it relied on national polls, as well as surveys out of Iowa and New Hampshire, to set the debate criteria.

The candidates who qualified for the main stage were either among the top six in an average of five recent national polls or among the top five in an average of the five most recent surveys out of Iowa or New Hampshire.

Fox Business Network defended the criteria, saying it used polls from nonpartisan, nationally recognized organizations using standard methods.

Mr. Kasich, meanwhile, celebrated the news, blasting out a fundraising email that claimed his involvement in the prime-time affair showed he is gaining momentum.

“It was just confirmed that I will participate in Thursday evening’s Fox Business prime-time debate,” Mr. Kasich said in the email blast. “This news came on the heels of three polls of likely New Hampshire voters that all showed me tied for second place. We have momentum and it’s happening at just the right time before the Feb. 9th primary.”

The news coincided with polls showing Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz running neck-and-neck for the top spot in Iowa and Mr. Trump leading the field in New Hampshire.

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