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Possible Rand Paul Debate Demotion Raises Doubts About Campaign

The Kentucky senator's campaign argued Saturday that polls to be rounded up, and the strength of his campaign means he should be on the main stage.
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Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign is getting out ahead of an expected bump down to the undercard debate by arguing that "fairness in dealing with polling variances ... would indicate" Paul should be included on the main stage.

In a press release issued Saturday evening, just three days before the Tuesday debate in Las Vegas, the campaign outlined a handful of reasons why the polls used to calculate participants in each debate, and the strength of Paul’s infrastructure, should allow him to remain on the main stage.

CNN will announce the participants in each debate on Sunday morning.

Paul's standing in the polls going into the debate, and the likelihood he may be demoted, has fueled speculation that he could be considering an end to his White House bid.

According to the Boston Globe, when asked if he’ll stay in the race if demoted to the undercard debate, Paul left the door open to dropping out.

"We will make an announcement, on that, on Tuesday," Paul reportedly said.

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Paul spokesman Sergio Gor clarified that answer in a statement issued Saturday evening, saying that Paul is "in the race to stay and to win."

"We continue to believe Senator Paul should be on the main stage at the next debate, but regardless, Senator Paul is in the race to stay and to win. He was referring to an announcement Tuesday as it relates to the debate," Gor said.

But being moved to the undercard debate could be a devastating blow to the Kentucky senator’s campaign, which has failed to gain much traction in the polls after a rocky start last spring.

Paul has faced challenges in resolving his libertarian, laissez-faire stance on foreign policy issues with the more hawkish bent the GOP has taken in the wake of terrorist attacks that have brought national security to the forefront of the GOP primary debate.

The undercard debate typically draws a fraction of the viewers of the main debate, and its participants have typically been overshadowed by any major moments coming out of the main stage. A bump down could raise further questions about the candidate’s viability in the race.

Related: What Happened to Marco Rubio's Surge?

According to the Boston Globe, Paul acknowledged the significance of the decision during a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Saturday.

"It’s very important," he said. "We’re hoping that they will give the same and equal and fair treatment that they gave to Carly Fiorina the last time."

In the press release, Paul’s campaign argues that the precedent set when CNN changed its criteria to allow Fiorina to participate in the debates should be adhered to in this case.

It also calls for polls to be rounded up, and notes that "Paul has a national, first-tier campaign, organized in all 50 states."

"He is on the ballot everywhere that has had filing. He has over 400 fully operational grassroots groups, and his campaign and related entities have raised $22 million for this race. It is simply not consistent with facts to attempt to force the campaign off of the main debate stage," the campaign argues.

"The campaign is not asking for special treatment, but simply fairness in criteria, whether it be time frames, allowances for poll variances, or rounding, all of which have been applied to other debates," the campaign said.