After losing his spot on the main stage at Thursday’s Republican debate, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was not happy — so he skipped it entirely and hosted his own event on Twitter.
The Republican presidential candidate was protesting being moved from the main stage to the 6 p.m. undercard at the Fox Business debate. After a two-day media tour of New York City giving interviews — all hinged upon his skipping the debate — Paul holed up at the Twitter offices and answered user questions on Periscope video livestream, calling the event the Rand Rally.
Eschewing the debate stage for a virtual exchange was a bold move, but it paid off for Paul — at least on social media. Amongst all candidates, regardless of party, Paul added the second most followers, according to Twitter Government, and #RandRally was the fourth highest trending hashtag in the United States.
The event also served as a fundraiser of sorts for Paul — he periodically sent messages linking to his Square Cash page for donations. Paul responded to a tweet from Wired Magazine about his follower growth saying, “I’m thinking we should tell them in advance that we’re not showing up to any more of their stupid debates.”
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Paul, who complained at previous debates about speaking time, talked all he wanted to viewers during the over two years that he wasn’t on stage. “I refuse to be banned, and I refuse to be silenced,” Paul said in a preview video. “Instead, I’ll take my message directly to the people.”
He wasn’t entirely absent from the main debate however — just over two hours into the event, a group of supporters briefly interrupted the show, loudly chanting “We want Rand!”