The Big Change That Could Make The Next GOP Debate Unlike Any Other So Far

On Tuesday, Fox Business Network reported that it will be setting higher qualification standards for GOP candidates in its upcoming debate, which it will hold Jan. 14 in South Carolina. According to The Hill, this means that as few as six candidates could be participating, representing a sharp decline from the previous showdown's nine. To say the least, some GOP candidates, such as Rand Paul, aren't favorable of Fox Business Network's tougher criteria. January's debate will mark the party's sixth presidential face-off, and it makes perfect sense to narrow down the numbers now. With nine candidates debating, the floor has been more or less a zoo.

Fox Business Network requires that all prime-time candidates meet one of the following standards: They must rank in the top six nationally or place within the top five in Iowa or New Hampshire. The Hill reported that according to Real Clear Politics, only Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie would place at the moment. But as politics has taught us in the past, these standings can change rapidly.

Rand Paul in particular has stated that he will not participate in the undercard debate — a lower-tier event that Fox Business Network is refusing to nix. Paul made the statement during an episode of Kilmeade and Friends:

I won’t participate in any kind of second-tier debate. We’ve got a first-tier campaign. I’ve got 800 precinct chairman in Iowa. I’ve got a 100 people on the ground working for me. I’ve raised 25 million dollars. I’m not gonna let any network or anybody tell me we’re not a first-tier campaign. If you tell a campaign with three weeks to go that they’re in the second-tier, you destroy the campaign. This isn’t the job of the media to pick who wins. The voters ought to get a chance.
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To be fair to Fox Business Network, the network is putting the decision in the hands of voters by basing its qualifications on the latest polls. Unfortunately for Paul, he's not a contender at the moment. If the polls remain consistent, the Kentucky Senator will be joined — if he chooses to partake in the undercard debate — by other candidates, including Carly Fiorina and John Kasich. According to Buzzfeed, Paul also said that fundraising and organization should also be factors in deciding who can participate in the main debate. But how would Fox Business Network even begin assigning a score to vague factors such as organization? Stick to the numbers, Paul.

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The contender barely landed a spot in December's GOP debate, after lagging in the polls up until the weekend before the event. Paul's campaign also made a statement, asking that CNN make an exception for the candidate:

Our campaign asserts that fairness in dealing with polling variances, which previously allowed for amended rules for Carly Fiorina for CNN's August Republican Presidential debate, would indicate Rand Paul should be on the main stage during Tuesday's debate.

Paul will likely withdraw from the race if he doesn't meet Fox Business Network's new prime-time standards, or if a new appeal from his campaign fails.