Rand Paul said he plans to boycott Thursday’s Republican presidential debate after missing the cut to make the main debate stage for the first time during his White House run.
“I won’t debate anything that’s not first-tier, because we have a first-tier campaign,” Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday.
Debate sponsor Fox Business Network announced Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich will participate in the prime-time showdown.
Paul would have been in the so-called undercard debate with Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
Earlier this month, the network announced it would have a five-person debate followed by a six-person prime-time event. Organizers said the lineup would be based on the average of the five most recent national polls, as well as the top five candidates polling in Iowa or New Hampshire.
Paul’s campaign mostly missed those marks, though his campaign cited Sunday’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll which had him in fifth place in Iowa.
“By any reasonable criteria Senator Paul has a top tier campaign. He will not let the media decide the tiers of this race and will instead take his message directly to the voters of New Hampshire and Iowa,” his campaign said in a statement.
There has been at least one instance of a candidate making her way onto the main debate stage despite initially being told she would be left out. Fiorina, along with supporters and even some of her rival candidates, made the stage last September after debate host CNN changed its rules for deciding who made the cut.
Christie missed the top-tier debate in November and shined in the earlier debate. He has made the main event since.
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said on Fox News that he had not heard Paul would skip the debate, but called him “a varsity candidate” that has “done very well.”