By Ben Kamisar
Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulLawmaker seeks to investigate Obama's foreign tax compliance law Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears GOP senators hit FBI on early probe of NY bombing suspect MORE (R-Ky.) made the cut for the main stage in the next GOP presidential debate, CNN announced on Sunday.
Paul had risked being demoted to the undercard due to lackluster polling. The senator most recently scored 3 percent support among likely Iowa caucusgoers in a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg News poll released Saturday and 5 percent in a Fox News poll released early Sunday.
CNN required candidates to register 4 percent support in Iowa or 3.5 percent nationally in order to qualify for the main debate. He would have needed 6 percent support in those new polls to reach the threshold.
A CNN spokesman said the Fox News poll showing an uptick in support convinced the network to include Paul in the main debate.
"In the light of new polling released this morning and in the spirit of being as inclusive as possible, CNN has decided to include Sen. Rand Paul in the prime time debate," the spokesman said in a statement to The Hill.
“Senator Paul is doing well in the early states and we are glad he’ll be able to present his vision for America from the main stage at CNN’s debate,” Paul spokesman Sergio Gor said in a statement to The Hill on Sunday.
The undercard debate will consist of former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Paul appeared to indicate last week that he would consider dropping out of the presidential race if he did not qualify for the main debate.
“We will make an announcement, on that, on Tuesday,” Paul said on Saturday when asked if he would drop out of the race if he did not qualify for the main debate stage, according to the Boston Globe. A spokesman later told the newspaper that the senator was referring to whether he would participate in the undercard debate on Tuesday.
CNN initially said it would announce the line-up for Tuesday night’s debate on its Sunday morning program, “State of the Union.” But after teasing the revelation at the top of the show, host Jake Tapper signed off without announcing the results. He later tweeted that the final billing would be announced during a rebroadcast of the show a few hours later.
The network altered its format for the last GOP primary debate at the last minute in order to bump the surging Carly Fiorina to the main stage.
Bradford Richardson contributed to this report, which was updated at 2:04 p.m.