If CNN actually followed the criteria it established for choosing candidates for the main stage of the next Republican presidential primary debate, Rand Paul would not have been included.
CNN decided to bend the rules, however, so Rand Paul wouldn't be excluded.
In the end, the network announced that Paul would be allowed to participate in the main stage, stating Paul was “showing viability” by polling at 5% in a Fox News Iowa poll released Sunday morning, but it did not explain—as it did in the case of Fiorina—how it let Paul, whose polling average considered by the network is below the required 4% in the state, on stage. [...]
To make the main stage, the network required candidates to either average 3.5% in approved nationwide surveys or 4% in Iowa or New Hampshire.
If this debate doesn't begin with Donald Trump saying Rand Paul shouldn't be there, I'll be very disappointed.
It seems possible the Republican presidential primary debates will continue to include as many as 8 to 10 candidates even after the first couple primary votes because networks are afraid of offending candidates and their supporters.