Just seven candidates will take the main stage for the next Republican presidential debate, on the Fox Business Network Thursday evening — the fewest of any GOP debate so far in the 2016 campaign.
Businessman Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich will battle it out in the main event in Charleston, S.C.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina did not make the cut for the main debate and have been assigned to an earlier matchup with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
But Paul won’t be there.
“We will not participate in anything that is not first-tier,” Paul told CNN shortly after the announcement.
If Paul won’t participate in anything that isn’t first tier he may want to disassociate himself from his own campaign. Just a suggestion.
It will be interesting to see if there will be any more movement from the undercard back to the prime-time stage from now on. Fiorina has been unable to capitalize on her early debate success and isn’t getting enough attention in either Iowa or New Hampshire to make that change. Ted Cruz is winning the evangelical voters popularity contest in Iowa that both Huckabee and Santorum (yeah, he’s still there) were pinning their hopes on. And Rand Paul? Well, one day he is going to look back on how he finished up this race and be really, really embarrassed.
If I were a betting man (which I am not when it comes to politics), I would say that the good Dr. Carson will be the next to exit the prime-time stage, if not the race altogether.
The only certainty here is that the main-stage debates will be much better when the criteria are adjusted so that John Kasich isn’t around barking, “OHIO!” and whining about being ignored.