Many people are calling Kentucky Senator Rand Paul the winner of Thursday night’s GOP debate. And even if you don’t think he won, you must admit that Paul definitely had his best debate performance of the election season. Despite that, Paul might not be included in the next Republican presidential debate.
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The number of Republican presidential candidates who qualify for the main-stage televised debates continues to shrink, a fact that has Paul’s campaign up in arms. The libertarian candidate’s political machine has taken aim at ABC News for likely not finding Paul eligible to participate in the February 6th debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, which falls the day before the bellwether state’s primary votes are cast.
According to the criteria published by ABC News, only candidates that manage to poll in the top six nationally or in New Hamsphire, as well as those who score the top three spots in the Iowa caucuses, will be eligible to debate. The network also announced that it would not hold an undercard debate, effectively excluding Paul, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum from consideration.
Paul campaign spokesman Sergio Gor chastised ABC News for making such a momentous decision behind closed doors, without allowing the public to have any influence on the process. â€śItâ€™s a little bit irresponsible,â€ť he said Thursday. â€śVoters should be the ones making these decisions and not network executives in New York.â€ť He also indicated that the campaign would appeal the decision with both the network and the Republican National Committee.
Despite his exclusion from the ABC News debate, Paul managed to score a spot on the main stage of the Fox News/Google debate held in Iowa on Thursday thanks to his strong showing on statewide polls. Paul previously refused to appear at the Fox Business debate in South Carolina when his weak polling numbers landed him in the undercard ranks.
Gor lamented ABC News’ decision to limit main stage eligibility to only the top-three polling candidates in Iowa, compared to previous debates that allowed the top six to participate. â€śItâ€™s unfortunate because youâ€™re discounting anything that happened in Iowa,â€ť he said. â€śTheyâ€™re dismissing the importance of the early states. Are they really going to exclude the fourth-place finisher in Iowa? Weâ€™re hoping they reconsider.â€ť
This is not the first time that the Paul campaign has raised an issue with ABC News. Paul refused to give any interviews with â€śGood Morning Americaâ€ť co-anchor George Stephanopolous, a former Clinton White House official who later admitted that he did not disclose $75,000 in donations that he made to the Clinton Foundation and subsequently bowed out of working on any GOP debates.