As Brian Doherty reported here, Rand Paul has said he won't appear at the kids' table on Thursday's GOP debate among presidential candidates.
Now, Politico is reporting that Paul's exclusion, based on criteria announced by the debate's host, Fox Business, might have happened due to the late publication of a poll.
Fox Business said it would include the top six finishers in the five most recent national polls and the top five finishers in polls restricted to Iowa and New Hampshire. Paul placed seventh in all those categories and so was relegated (along with Carly Fiorina) to the undercard.
But a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll in Iowa released Wednesday morning has Paul at 5 percent — alone in fifth place. In fact, if the Des Moines Register poll is included on the list of the five most recent polls, it gets Paul into a tie for fifth place with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 4.2 percent. That, presumably, would get Paul onto the main stage.
It's true that the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll was released 36 hours after Fox Business' deadline for inclusion. But it was conducted Jan. 7-10 — entirely before the qualification deadline. Other polls from American Research Group (Jan. 6-10) and Quinnipiac University (Jan. 5-10) conducted through Sunday were released on Monday afternoon (Jan. 11) and made it into Fox Business' average.
Quite simply: Had the Register and Bloomberg released their poll, which was completed Sunday, on Monday at 5:59 p.m. instead of Wednesday at 6 a.m., Paul would likely have qualified for the main stage.
Paul only got on the main stage of last GOP debate, hosted by CNN, by the skin of his teeth and his campaign woes continue.
From a libertarian perspective, I'd like to see him on either the main stage or the undercard stage at this week's debate. It's rare to hear anyone in either major party talk about foreign policy from a non-interventionist angle and the Kentucky senator has been a leading voice for criminal justice reform, reducing government spending, and other topics near and dear to my heart.
Critics of what Matt Welch and I have dubbed "The Libertarian Moment" have been taking delight in the failure of Paul's campaign to catch fire (and wrongly conflating his failure with a general rejection by Americans of libertarian values of social tolerance and fiscal responsibility). Paul has always been at his best at the moments when he sounds his most libertarian, and he's been doing that more and more as his days seem to be numbered in the 2016 race.
So here's hoping he gets another shot on Thursday, or walks back his refusal to mix it up on the undercard. The more libertarian rhetoric out there, the better.