Only seven candidates will appear on the main stage this Thursday’s GOP debate on the Fox Business Channel. Both Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul have been demoted.
While Fiorina has agreed to be part of the GOP Undercard Debate with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, Paul has declined to participate. A spokesman for the Paul campaign claims he is running “a top-tier campaign.” But the truth of the matter is that Paul’s isolationist libertarianism simply doesn’t resonate in the age of ISIS. Sharing a stage with Santorum is too much for his ego to bear.
Yet this is also a big setback for Fiorina. Back in August, Fiorina wiped the floor with the competition at the GOP Undecard Debate and earned her way to the GOP main stage. She went face to face with Donald Trump after he made disparaging remarks about her appearance and got a boost. But Fiorina could not sustain that momentum.
But Fiorina could either see this setback as a problem or an opportunity. Both Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee have been previously demoted. Christie made the most of his opportunity and now has a fighting chance in New Hampshire. Huckabee did not and has struggled put a dent into the Evangelical support that has turned to Ted Cruz and is stuck on a social conservative minor league tour with Santorum. Fiorina is more than capable of making the most of her opportunity on the debate stage. The question is whether voters in Iowa, NH or South Carolina will give her a second look. My guess is that Fiorina is going to have to pull a Christie and concentrate her efforts in a single state. In Fiorina’s case, South Carolina might be her best bet.
The main stage at Thursday’s debate will consist of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie.