Nobody puts Rand Paul in a corner — or at least, not in an undercard debate. The Kentucky senator suggested he will boycott next month’s Fox Business Network debate unless he is upgraded to the main stage.
“I won’t participate in any kind of second-tier debate,” Paul said on Kilmeade and Friends — as picked up by Buzzfeed — when asked about the recently released criteria, which suggests that Paul will not qualify for the top-tier debate.
“We’ve got a first-tier campaign. I’ve got 800 precinct chairman in Iowa. I’ve got a 100 people on the ground working for me. I’ve raised 25 million dollars. I’m not gonna let any network or anybody tell me we’re not a first-tier campaign,” Paul continued. “If you tell a campaign with three weeks to go that they’re in the second-tier, you destroy the campaign. This isn’t the job of the media to pick who wins. The voters ought to get a chance.”
Tuesday evening, Fox Business Network announced its criteria for the main stage: a candidate must placed in the top six in the average of the last five national polls; the top five in the average of the last five New Hampshire polls; or the top five in the average of the last five Iowa polls. According to Politico’s calculations, Paul is not likely to be invited to the later debate under those standards.
CNN was accused of changing its criteria to allow Paul to participate in this month’s main stage debate.
Paul said the current set-up would “lay it up in a lap” for Donald Trump, as he is “the only one on the state that will challenge him.”
He added that it was a “real mistake for the media to be given so much power to select who has a chance and who doesn’t have a chance” and that “the polls have been wildly inaccurate.”
“I frankly just won’t be told by the media which tier I’m in, and we’re not willing to accept that, because we’re a first-tier campaign and we’re in it to win it and we won’t be told that we’re in a tier that can’t win,” he said. He suggested that fundraising and the organizational strength should also be considered in choosing who participates in which debates.
“We just can’t accept the designation of being artificially told that we don’t have a chance with three weeks to go, so we won’t stand for it, and we will protest any such designation,” he said.
The Fox Business Network debate is scheduled for January 14.