Elections

Paul, Fiorina cut from main GOP debate as field shrinks

Republican presidential candidates, Jeb Bush, left, Ben Carson, center, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, participate in the Kemp Forum in Columbia, S.C. They’ll return to the state Thursday to debate.
Republican presidential candidates, Jeb Bush, left, Ben Carson, center, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, participate in the Kemp Forum in Columbia, S.C. They’ll return to the state Thursday to debate. AP

Seven Republicans will debate in the party’s main event Thursday, as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and former business executive Carly Fiorina failed to qualify.

Fox Business Network, sponsor of the debate, said qualifiers included real estate mogul Donald Trump; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The debate at the North Charleston, S.C., Coliseum is scheduled to begin at 9 P.M. EST.

Eligible for the earlier debate, which is to begin at 6 P.M. EST, are Paul, Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum.

Paul told CNN Monday he won’t participate.

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“I'll be taking my campaign directly to New Hampshire and Iowa. I'm not going to be in South Carolina," he said. "It's a mistake because the thing is we actually have been in the top five or six in most of the recent polls. In fact, last week in a national poll we were just one point out of fourth place. So I think it's a mistake to try to exclude me from the national debate."

To qualify for the main debate, a candidate had to be either among the top six in an average of the five most recent national polls, or among the top five in an average of the five most recent Iowa or New Hampshire polls.

Trump had 34 percent nationally among Republicans in the latest RealClearPolitics poll averages, while Cruz was second at 20 percent.

David Lightman: 202-383-6101, @lightmandavid

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