When Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul narrowly missed the threshold needed to make it to the main stage for a debate earlier this month, he staged a boycott of the event. Opting to host his own social media town hall event instead, Paul lamented the poll-driven strategy used to determine placement in — or exclusion from — the debates.
“It’s kind of ridiculous to arbitrarily rate the campaigns based on national polling,” he said at the time.
Some pundits suggested Paul actually came out of the debate as a big winner, citing several media appearances and increased online discussion of his candidacy as evidence that he likely gained more exposure via his boycott than if he had been invited to participate in the prime-time event. Just two weeks later, polling results suggest the strategy might have worked to the Kentucky senator’s favor.
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The Fox News Channel, which is hosting Thursday’s debate along with Google, announced the official top-tier lineup on Tuesday. Paul was among the eight GOP candidates included.
Set to be situated once again behind a center-stage podium, front-runner Donald Trump will be flanked by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for the final debate before next week’s Iowa caucus. In addition to Paul, the rest of the lineup includes Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich.
Carly Fiorina, who also fought her way back to the main stage after faltering earlier on in the primary season, will once again be relegated to the second-tier debate. Taking place two hours before the 9 p.m. ET prime-time event, the participants in the early debate include, in addition to Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Jim Gilmore.
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