Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, is sitting out the party’s first presidential debate of 2016 to be held on Thursday night because he has been relegated to the undercard show.
Paul becomes the only candidate to have opted out of a debate this election cycle, after trying as hard as he could till late on Wednesday to stay on the main stage. The undercard debate, which takes place before the main one, has been called the kiddie-table debate.
To qualify for the main stage of this debate, being hosted by Fox Business, candidates had to figure in the top six in national polls, or the top five in Iowa and New Hampshire, the early voting states.
Seven who qualified for the main stage are front-runner Donald Trump, his closest rival Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich.
The rest — Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Paul — figure in the undercard debate.
Paul had known for some days that he may get relegated to the undercard debate, and had threatened to boycott it if that were to happen, indeed calling it an unfair practice.
Other candidates have had problems with this format too, but have tended to go along in the hope of making it to the main stage, as did Fiorina, who has slipped back now.
Christie was once relegated to the undercard debate too, and seemed fine with it. “It doesn’t matter the stage, give me a podium and I’ll be there to talk about real issues like this.”
He made it back to the main stage subsequently, and will be there on Thursday night again. Huckabee too started off on the main stage, but has been in the undercard ring for a bit now.
Santorum never made it out, neither did Bobby Jindal and George Pataki, who are both out of the race now. Santorum is still there, hoping perhaps for a repeat of his 2012 run.