CONCORD, N.H. – Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is confident he will be on the primetime Republican debate stage Tuesday, but if he falls short, he will make an announcement this week about what comes next.
Asked Saturday by the Globe specifically if he would drop out of the race for president if he didn’t qualify for the main-stage GOP debate, Paul said: “We will make an announcement, on that, on Tuesday.”
Later Saturday, Matt Chisholm, New Hampshire communications director for the Paul campaign, insisted his candidate was in the race to win. He said Paul’s quote referred to whether he would participate in a secondary debate on Tuesday if he didn’t qualify for the main-stage event.
CNN, the host of Tuesday’s debate, is requiring candidates to have a national polling average of at least 3.5 percent or at least 4 percent in one of the early-voting states of New Hampshire or Iowa in order to participate in the main GOP debate. Those with weaker polling will be invited to participate in a separate debate earlier in the evening.
According to RealClear Politics’ polling average, Paul is currently at 2.2 percent nationally, 2.7 percent in New Hampshire, and 4 percent in Iowa.
With 14 major candidates remaining in the fight for the party’s nomination, Paul reiterated how crucial it is to be on the stage.
“It’s very important,” he said during a campaign appearance at New England College’s Concord branch. “We’re hoping that they will give the same and equal and fair treatment that they gave to Carly Fiorina the last time.”
New Hampshire state Senator Andy Sanborn, a Paul supporter, encouraged voters to pay more attention to issues than to polls.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be spending as much time talking about polls,” Sanborn said. “We should be talking about solutions by the candidates directly.”
At the same campaign stop, speaking to a crowd of more than 50, Paul focused heavily on his proposals for strengthening gun rights and increasing national security.
Renee Paradis, 54, of Laconia, said Paul is her top choice, but is worried about how his campaign is being run, citing an audio incident that started Saturday’s event.
“They’re showing a little TV clip at the beginning – the volume’s not loud enough,” Paradis said. “If they can’t get professional people to run a campaign, it makes me question how they’re going to run a country.”
Saturday was Paul’s last scheduled New Hampshire trip of the year; he plans to return to the state in January.
Clarification: This story and headline have been updated to reflect a clarification from the Paul campaign.