WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eight Republican candidates have qualified for the prime-time Fox News/Google debate on Thursday, with Donald Trump winning the center-stage spot as the top-polling candidate, Fox News announced on Tuesday.
But Trump said on Tuesday he likely will not attend the debate. This will be the last one before the Iowa caucuses on Monday marking the first contest in the nomination race for the Nov. 8 presidential election.
Trump has been engaged in a public spat with Fox News that began at a debate last August in which he said he was subject to unfair questioning by moderator Megyn Kelly.
"Let's see how much money Fox makes without me in the debate," Trump told the news conference in Marshalltown, Iowa.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who failed to qualify for the main event in the last debate, made the cut this time.
The other participants in the 9 p.m. EST debate will be Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore qualified for the 7 p.m. EST debate for low-polling candidates.
After failing to qualify for a prime-time debate held earlier this month, Paul declined to participate in the so-called undercard debate.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Walsh)