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The last Republican debate before the Iowa caucus is Thursday and Rand Paul will be on the stage according to hosts Fox News, who made the announcement Tuesday evening.

A series of recent polls placed Paul solidly in the top five within Iowa, ahead of Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, and Chris Christie.

The Hill reported, “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 he pulled ahead of Jeb Bush in Iowa in the four consecutive polls released before Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, punching his ticket for Thursday’s main event,” noted The Hill.

This news comes in the wake of Paul’s exclusion from the last GOP debate. A Des Moines Register poll published just after the timeframe used to determine eligibility confirmed he is running a top-tier campaign. That poll however, wasn’t counted due to its late release. Paul was relegated to the “undercard” debate, which he skipped.

As Rare reported, Paul may have benefitted by choosing to boycott the lower-tier preshow. Media appearances focused on Paul’s exclusion were viewed by 15 million people. The Fox Business debate was seen by 11 million, and the undercard debate he boycotted only had 2 million viewers.

Leading up to Fox’s announcement about Thursday’s debate, Paul’s campaign was confident that recent polls reflected his top-tier status and that he would be included. As Business Insider reported, Paul’s chief strategist Doug Stafford tweeted a link to a Quinnipiac poll showing his rising status with the remark, “See y’all in Iowa.”

Paul’s campaign manager Chip Englander also expressed confidence on Twitter, noting that the most recent polls were better news for Paul and Bush.

In anticipation of the good news, Paul’s team spent the days before tonight’s announcement promoting the fact that Paul no doubt qualified for the debate; it was just a matter of waiting for Fox’s official announcement.

Thursday’s debate will air on Fox News at 9PM ET.

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