Fiorina-PaulSeven Republican presidential candidates will participate in Fox Business Network’s prime-time debate on Thursday, but Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and former business executive Carly Fiorina did not qualify for the main event, the network said on Monday.

The seven candidates chosen for the main debate by Fox Business, based on the network’s polling criteria, were billionaire businessman Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Debate host Fox Business Network announced the debate lineup Monday evening, dealing a blow to both candidates three weeks before Iowa’s leadoff presidential caucuses. Just seven candidates — the smallest Republican group so far — will be featured in Thursday’s 9 p.m. ET main event, based on criteria established by the network that relied on recent polls.

Fiorina, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum will participate in the so-called undercard debate for low-polling candidates earlier in the evening, the network said.

Following the announcement, Rand Paul announced he would not be involved in the second tier debates. In his media comments to CNN, he said that”An artificial designation as being in the second tier is something we can’t accept. I won’t participate in anything that’s not the first tier.”

Before the lineup was announced, Paul strategist Doug Stafford said: “This race is hitting its final stretch and Rand Paul is a serious contender for the nomination. He expects to be on the stage this week because he has qualified to do so and because he has a top-tier campaign.” Stafford noted that Paul has qualified for primary ballots in every state, has more than 1,000 precinct captains in Iowa, and has a 500-person leadership team in New Hampshire.

Summarised from: AP/Reuters

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