01/13/16 08:34 AM EST
Rand Paul appears to be a victim of bad timing.
The Kentucky senator has failed to catch fire like some of his other fellow GOP presidential candidates, but Fox Business Network's decision to boot him for the first time off the main stage at Thursday night's debate in South Carolina was a potential knockout punch for his flailing candidacy.
The network made that decision based on Paul's standing in public polls. Fox Business had said last month that the top six candidates in the five most recent national polls as of Monday evening would make the main stage, joined by any other candidates who appeared in the top five in either Iowa or New Hampshire - the two states that vote first in the nominating process. Paul was in seventh place in all three averages, according to POLITICO's calculations.
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.
But Fox Business isn't backing down. "We announced the criteria in December and clearly stated the polling needed to be conducted and released by Monday, January 11th at 6pm/ET," Fox Business spokesperson Caley Cronin told POLITICO Wednesday morning.
Paul has declined to participate in the undercard debate. The candidates set to be on the main stage are Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Bush.
A Paul spokesman didn't return a request for comment on the new data early Wednesday morning.