Next week's Republican presidential primary debate seems likely to trigger more skirmishes in a field of 2016 candidates already known for infighting. Earlier this month brought reports that GOP front-runner Donald Trump has threaten to boycott the upcoming face-off unless the host network donates $5 million to charity. Now, Sen. Rand Paul is the latest to take issue with Tuesday's debate.
Paul is currently confronting the possibility of being relegated to the undercard debate, commonly known as the "kiddie table," for those presidential candidates polling below 4%. The Kentucky senator is hoping that CNN, which is hosting the upcoming debate, will make an exception for him — the same way they did for Republican Carly Fiorina during the last debate. The cable network had tweaked its polling criteria to allow Fiorina to participate in the last debate after she offered up a strong performance on stage in October.
“We think if they give us the same treatment that Carly Fiorina was given last time, that you measure from debate to debate, that we do meet the criteria,” Paul said Friday night on Fox News, when asked about the possibility he will be in the undercard or earlier debate for candidates with lower-polling.
RealClearPolitics.com finds that Paul has a 4% threshold in Iowa. However, CNN reported that Paul is below that figure. The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll, which is set to be released Saturday evening, will likely contribute to the determining whether Paul is qualified.
“I have every expectation that I will be treated fairly. But I want the same and equal treatment that other candidates have gotten in the past,” he added. “We have a first-tier campaign and we don't plan on being labeled by the mainstream media anything less.”
According to CNN rules for the fifth GOP presidential primary debate, which will take place on Dec. 15 debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, only candidates polling at least 3.5% nationally or at least 4% in New Hampshire or Iowa in polls conducted between Oct. 29 and Dec. 13 will be on the main stage.
In September, CNN allowed Fiorina to participate on the main stage, citing the “lack of national public polling following the August 6 debate.” In its decision, CNN said any candidate who ranks in the top 10 in polling between Aug. 7 and Sept. 10 will be included.
The other candidates that are expected to share the undercard stage in next week's debate are Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), and former New York Gov. George Pataki.
In last month's debate in Milwaukee, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was snubbed from the main stage and appeared in the undercard debate instead.