When I wrote about The Donald likely not caving in and showing up for the Fox debate earlier this morning I noticed some people in the comments section saying they probably wouldn’t even bother watching the show. But let’s not be too hasty! Maybe you won’t have Donald Trump on the stage, but could I tempt you back into the audience by sweetening the pot with Rand Paul? (The Hill)

Rand Paul has squeaked back onto the main stage for Thursday’s GOP presidential debate thanks to a slight increase at the polls in Iowa just before the deadline.

The Kentucky senator was essentially a lock to fall short of two prongs of Fox News’s criteria — polling within the top six in an average of five national polls or top five in the average of recent New Hampshire polls.

But a late surge pushed Paul into a tie with Jeb Bush for fifth place in Iowa, with both candidates averaging 4 percent in the polls considered by Fox. That punched Paul’s ticket for Thursday’s main event.

Paul had missed the cut for the Fox Business Network prime-time debate earlier this month, a decision he protested by skipping the undercard debate. He also had been on the fence for CNN’s December debate before the network relaxed its criteria to allow him to remain on stage.

Rand Paul didn’t cause quite as much of stir when he also decided to boycott a debate due to the “unfair treatment” he was getting, but it was good for a few headlines. Let’s remember that Paul’s complaint was that he’s running a first tier campaign and deserved to be on the main stage even if his poll numbers didn’t reflect it. The same people criticizing Trump would have rightly been upset with the Kentucky senator because he had an opportunity to have his voice heard (albeit to a smaller audience) and it’s his own fault that he didn’t take advantage of it. Of course, there’s a world of difference between The Donald and Rand, because Rand actually needs the debates (or any other venue where he can have his face on the screen) since he’s still dwelling in the basement in all the national polls.

With that said, I actually do sympathize with his complaint. The same math formulas which sentenced him to the kiddie table last time are the ones which rescued him this week. And the difference we’re talking about probably comes down to literally two or three more people in New Hampshire picking up the phone when a pollster called. The cutoff line is pretty arbitrary, but I guess we had to have some sort of rules to limit the field and that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

There was one interesting, if likely insignificant bit of news regarding the undercard in this announcement. (Emphasis added)

In an unexpected development, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore will join Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum in the undercard debate.

I know what you’re thinking… wait a minute. Jim Gilmore is running for President? I had the same reaction. But more to the point, aren’t we supposed to be at the juncture where we’re cutting down the stragglers and not adding to the field? Why are we adding in Gilmore now? If the only reason was so Fox could still have an even number of participants in the undercard, that sounds more like a decision based on making appealing TV visuals than determining the next leader of the free world, doesn’t it?

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