Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul said Thursday afternoon that the decision to exclude him from the Fox Business debate will result in a "bad" reaction from his supporters.
"Do you think that Fox is trying to censor your message?" Paul was bluntly asked by TheBlaze.
"I think the [Republican] Party at large wants very few choices — fewer choices, fewer selections," Paul said. "And it may not be specifically targeted to me, but I can tell you that our supporters feel like we are being excluded from the debate."
"And that they are excluding our ideas and by extension you are excluding my supporters," the Kentucky senator continued. "And so, yeah, the reaction will be a bad one."
"So if you are in charge of the Republican Party, I would say to you is, 'Do you want a bigger party? Or a smaller party?' If you want a bigger party, you've got to try to do things to make it more inclusive. Not make it look arbitrary by excluding people," he added.
Earlier this week, the Fox Business Network announced that Paul had not met the qualifications to be on the main stage for Thursday's debate — something Paul has contested. The libertarian firebrand vowed to boycott the undercard debate, saying he would not participate "in anything that's not first tier because we have a first tier campaign."
Paul told TheBlaze he felt he had made the right choice.
"You have to make a strategic decision," he said. "On the one hand, there's only three weeks left and if you are designated by the media — you accept the label of second tier, I think you are telling the voters, 'Well I guess it's over.'"
Paul added, "Or you could make the choice that we made and say, 'You know what, we're not a second tier campaign. We've raised $25 million, we just announced 1,000 precinct chairs in Iowa and guess what we are first tier and we are going to take our message to the voter. We chose the latter, because we really do believe we have a chance."
"We are going to work hard," he said. "We are going to be in New Hampshire all weekend and Iowa. If you go to our headquarters in Iowa, you will see hundreds of people ... making phone calls for us. It's not fair for them or the voters of Iowa to have a decision on the election pre-decided for them by pollsters or big media."
He also questioned more people couldn't have been allowed on the debate stage.
"We had nine on the stage last time," he said. "So I guess the question would be, 'Why would we have nine for five months and then change the numbers?'"
Paul recorded a video message to his supporters ahead of the debate, saying he would not allow his message to be "banned" or "silenced."
"Without my voice tonight, there will be no voice for those who truly believe in fiscal conservatism," he said. "Without my voice, the liberty wing of our party wonders if they need to look elsewhere outside of the party for representation.
"I refuse to be banned and I refuse to be silenced," Paul added.
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