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Eye On Candidates
December 11, 2015

Paul May Not Qualify for Main Debate Stage

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is in danger of missing the cutoff for the main stage of the next Republican debate, according to Politico:

Rand Paul could be booted from main debate stage

Rand Paul, once considered the main contender for the anti-establishment GOP vote, will likely be pushed off the debate stage next week when CNN announces the lineup for the fifth Republican forum…. (To qualify for the main debate, a candidate must average at least 3.5 percent nationally or 4 percent in either of the first two voting states.)…

Paul, who lost the outsider mantle to [Donald] Trump, [Ben] Carson and [Ted] Cruz, will probably fall short of the mark. While the senator’s 2.8-percent average in national polls is similar to Christie’s, Kasich’s and Fiorina’s — his numbers in Iowa (3.5 percent) and New Hampshire (3.2 percent) will likely leave him under the threshold.

The Paul camp has been running the numbers too and is worried. “It's a daily battle, these polls. And the narrative that comes out of them becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy,” said one Paul strategist, adding that the viability of the campaign is challenged if the senator gets booted off the main stage. “We have to remain on the stage in these debates.”

The article provides a preview of who is likely to make the main stage, who will wind up in the early event, and who won’t qualify even for that:

Based on national polls, only five candidates are at 3 percent or higher in surveys conducted since late October: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush.

But [Chris] Christie, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina are likely to join the top five even though they are all between 2.5 percent and 3 percent in the national polls because of CNN’s decision to consider both national polls and surveys in either Iowa or New Hampshire….

Mike Huckabee, who was relegated to the undercard last time, is virtually certain to be there again next week, at just 2.4 percent nationally, 2 percent in Iowa and less than 1 percent in New Hampshire.

For the CNN undercard on Tuesday, candidates who have achieved at least 1 percent in any four polls among those conducted nationally or in the two early states will qualify. That means Paul, Huckabee, Rick Santorum, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham will likely be on that panel. Pataki and Graham didn’t even make the undercard for the most recent debate last month.

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore — who hasn’t been invited to any of the debates since an appearance in the first undercard back in August — failed to earn at least 1 percent in any of the 17 qualifying polls in which he was even included as an option, and will almost certainly be excluded again.

The next debate will be on Dec. 15, hosted by CNN. It’s the final debate before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays consume most people’s attention, meaning any story coming out of the debate is likely to be a dominant one through early January. For a candidate like Rand Paul, failing to make the main event and losing out on the chance to be part of the storyline coming out of the debate would be a serious blow to an already struggling campaign.