Kentucky Senator Rand Paul says he will not take part in Thursday's Republican primary debate, after it was announced that he and former business executive Carly Fiorina would not be included in the main group of candidates.
The Fox Business cable-news network said it decided to shift Paul and Fiorina from the so-called "top-tier" group of candidates meeting on the main stage in North Charleston, South Carolina, to a debate earlier in the evening for Republican candidates who have scored lower in pre-election opinion polls.
Paul said he declined an invitation from Fox Business to join the early-evening debate.
"By any reasonable criteria Senator Paul has a top-tier campaign," his campaign said in a statement. "He will not let the media decide the tiers of this race and will instead take his message directly to the voters of New Hampshire and Iowa" - the first two states where Republican Party members will select their choice for president in the November general election.
Seven candidates will be featured in the main-stage debate on Thursday: real-estate mogul Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
In addition to Fiorina and Paul, Fox said the earlier round of the debate this week could include former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Other Republican hopefuls who took part in earlier debates have since dropped out of the political race.
The network said it chose the debate lineups based on "both national polls as well as those based in Iowa and New Hampshire, conducted and released prior to Monday, January 11."