Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was not present at the main stage for Fox Business' Jan. 14 GOP debate, but his fans certainly were. While the senator hosted on an online forum on social media, a number of his fans interrupted debate moderator Neil Cavuto by shouting, "We want Rand!" (video below).
Fox Business had instituted a criteria for candidates to be allowed on the main stage in an attempt to whittle down what is a huge pool of presidential contenders. Based on an average of the last five national polls as well as polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, only the top six candidates were welcomed to the stage, CNN reports.
Both Paul and businesswoman Carly Fiorina failed to make the cut, being bumped to the undercard debate stage to stand alongside former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Minesota and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
The Kentucky senator refused to participate, saying that the criteria was flawed and that limiting a candidate's exposure was unfair.
"People have to realize that what the media is doing here is pre-deciding an election," Paul told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on the day of the debate, which he had decided to boycott.
"I have an important voice,” Paul said. “What do you think the liberty movement, the liberty voters in the Republican Party are thinking now? That the Republican Party in league with the media networks is saying we're not going to let the liberty candidate on the stage."
Paul added that "we have not had one vote yet and everybody is going crazy like Donald Trump has won the race already."
Instead of joining Fiorina at the undercard debate, Paul took to Twitter, hosting what he dubbed #RandRally, which became the fourth most trending hashtag of the evening, TIME reports.
The senator took questions from followers on the social media site and provided answers on the streaming app Periscope. Instead of fighting for time to speak on the debate stage, the senator was able to communicate fully with his supporters and link new followers to his campaign's fundraising page.
Meanwhile, during the main GOP debate, a group of Rand supporters interrupted moderator Cavuto as he was asking Gov. John Kasich of Ohio a question.
“We want Rand!” they cried out. “We want Rand!”
“While we had an extraordinary media day and reached over 15 million listeners and viewers, we agree that Rand should have been there,” Paul campaign spokesman Sergio Gor told Yahoo! News. “The fight for liberty continues!”