When Fox News hosts its Republican candidates forum Sunday night, one of the leading candidates won't be invited.
The Fox debate is excluding Texas Congressman Ron Paul, even though he polls higher in New Hampshire, has raised significantly more money, and is campaigning more in New Hampshire than Fred Thompson -- who is invited.
The censorship of Paul has infuriated his loyal supporters, who note that he pulled 10 percent of the vote in Iowa, well ahead of Rudy Giuliani, who pulled just over 3 percent. Giuliani has also been invited to the Fox forum.
Paul is also setting records in GOP fundraising, raking in $20 million in the last quarter alone.
New Hampshire Republicans are apparently not happy with Fox's arbitrary decision to exclude Paul.
This weekened the New Hampshire Republican Party issued a press release announcing it had dropped its affiliation with the Fox Republican debate.
“The first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary serves a national purpose by giving all candidates an equal opportunity on a level playing field," said Republican Chairman Fergus Cullen. "Only in New Hampshire do lesser known, lesser funded underdogs have a fighting chance to establish themselves as national figures."
Paul's campaign is also angered by the Fox effort to cut out his voice.
"The New Hampshire Republican Party did the right thing by pulling its sponsorship for Fox's candidate forum," said Ron Paul 2008 spokesman Jesse Benton. "'Fox News' decision to exclude Congressman Paul is unfair, but it won't stop Dr. Paul's message of freedom, peace and prosperity from resonating with the people of New Hampshire."
The Fox decision is not going over well with New Hampshire voters or media who don't like New York-based media coming to their state to dictate news coverage.
This past Thursday, the Manchester Union Leader, New Hampshire's major newspaper, published a front-page editorial blasting news organizations that do not invite all candidates to their forums.
Fox said it decided to invite candidates who had received high standing in national polls, despite the fact small primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire will often back underdogs.
Paul supporters believe the move is an effort to marginalize their candidate, who has been a strong critic of the Iraq war.
"Fight Fox," a new Web site organized by Paul backers, tells readers: "We need to send a message to Fox's Rupert Murdoch & his fellow Neocon buddies that he is not Musharraf and the US is not Pakistan, yet! Fox News cannot just stifle public opinion. debate and impact a primary election by excluding Ron Paul just because they don't like his message of freedom and liberty."
Paul seems to share that view. According to a report in the Boston Globe, he called Fox News a "propagandist" for the Iraq war.
Despite the hoopla, Fox is sticking to its guns: no Ron Paul.
"We look forward to presenting a substantive forum which will serve as the first program of its kind this election season," David Rhodes, vice president of Fox News, said in a statement.
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