Rand Paul on Main Debate Stage After Poll Movement, CNN Says

  • Paul joins eight other Republicans in top tier for Dec. 15
  • Chris Christie rejoins main forum after rise in New Hampshire

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky will be on the prime-time stage for the next Republican presidential debate on Dec. 15, sponsor CNN announced Sunday.

Donald Trump, who’s spent much of the primary race atop polls of the party’s crowded 2016 field, will again be at the center podium for the debate in Las Vegas. He’ll be flanked by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Rounding out the nine slots for the main debate will be Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

For Christie, the session will be a return to the main event after failing to make the prime-time stage in a Nov. 10 Fox Business Network debate. The second-term governor of the Garden State has recently seen his poll numbers rise in crucial New Hampshire as he barnstorms the state with a series of town hall meetings and retail politicking.

Paul was in danger of being eliminated from the prime time debate, which will air Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET. The decision was reached after a Fox News poll released hours earlier showed Paul with 5 percent support in Iowa, the network said.

“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 network said, citing a CNN spokeswoman it didn’t name.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former New York Governor George Pataki will debate in an earlier forum set to air at 6:30 p.m. New York time, CNN said on its website.

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