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Rand Paul tells Vox he's confident he'll qualify for the CNBC debate

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, California.
Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rand Paul is confident that he'll qualify for the primetime stage at CNBC's GOP presidential primary debate next month, the Kentucky Republican told Vox in a brief exchange Wednesday night.

As my colleague Andrew Prokop explains, Paul would be relegated to a second-tier debate if he doesn't average at least 2.5 percent in national polls released by six media outlets between September 17 and October 21. He is in the most peril of dropping from the main stage to the "JV" debate because his average in the four polls released since September 17 is 2.75 percent.

I caught up with him outside a Washington townhouse where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell holds fundraisers. After Paul and his wife, Kelley Paul, finished talking with McConnell and McConnell's wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, he told me he wasn't going to take any questions. But I tossed two his way as he ambled away from the townhouse.

Are you worried about the rules for the CNBC debate?

"No," he said flatly.

I tried again: So, you're confident you'll make the primetime debate?

"Yes," he said, disappearing into a waiting black SUV.

It may turn out that Paul's confidence is warranted. But he and several others — John Kasich (4 percent), Chris Christie (3.75 percent), and Mike Huckabee (3.5 percent) — are in danger of falling into a best-of-the-rest debate. Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio all seem assured of clearing the 2.5 percent threshold. Any candidate who fails to get at least 1 percent in one of the approved polls won't even have a seat at the kids' table.