Fox News has just announced the lineup for Thursday’s GOP presidential debate — the final one before the Iowa caucuses on Monday kick the primaries into full swing.
And there’s one big surprise: Sen. Rand Paul will now be back on the main stage, after boycotting the most recent Fox Business News debate after being demoted to “undercard” status.
Via Fox News:
Eight Republican candidates have qualified for the prime-time Fox News/Google debate on Thursday – and once again, Donald Trump has snagged the center-stage slot.
This time, though, Rand Paul also qualified for the main event, after missing the cut in the last debate.
The participants qualifying for the prime-time, 9 p.m. ET debate are:
Billionaire businessman Trump; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; and Kentucky Sen. Paul.
The participants qualifying for the earlier, 7 p.m. ET debate are:
Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
The lineup reflects a polling boost for Paul, who did not qualify for the most recent Fox Business Network prime-time debate earlier this month, and declined to participate in the evening event.
The debate on Thursday will be moderated by Fox News anchors Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace.
The candidate lineup was decided based on the results of national, New Hampshire and Iowa polling. To qualify for the prime-time debate, a candidate had to place in the top six in an average of recent national polls, or in the top five in an average of recent Iowa or New Hampshire polls.
Perhaps the only other surprise here is that with the Iowa caucuses just days away we’ll STILL have eight candidates on the main stage.
Regardless, the field will be thinning very soon…
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]