Republicans will hold their second 2024 presidential debate on Wednesday evening, though, as with the first gathering, one candidate will be notably absent.
Former President Donald Trump, who skipped the first GOP debate in Milwaukee last month, will not join his fellow presidential hopefuls on stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Instead, Trump plans to hold an event in Detroit amid a strike by the United Auto Workers — an appearance that has not been welcomed by union leadership.
To participate on Wednesday, candidates must have 50,000 unique donors (including 200 donors in 20 or more states) and reach 3% in national polls or polls of early primary voting states.
For some of the other candidates, this may be their last chance to appear on the debate stage, as the Republican National Committee announced last week that it’s raising the qualifying standards for the third debate, which will be held on Nov. 8 in Miami.
Here’s the rundown of those hoping to challenge President Biden in next year’s election — and whether they’ve qualified for Wednesday night’s debate.
The Florida governor was viewed as the top alternative to Trump but has seen his polling average slip from roughly 30% in early spring to half of that now. A Reuters story published Monday quoted several DeSantis donors and operatives who blamed early mistakes with his campaign rollout for his current positioning, while other DeSantis supporters have criticized him for not choosing a lane, leaning too heavily into culture wars and prioritizing a campaign strategy that’s been panned as too online.
At the first debate, many of Ramaswamy’s fellow candidates seemed genuinely annoyed by the entrepreneur, focusing their attacks on him despite his lower standing in the polls. Ahead of the second debate, Ramaswamy’s campaign has defended his previous business ties to China, while the candidate himself has begun posting to TikTok despite calling the app “digital fentanyl.”
Haley received kudos from a number of pundits following the first debate and has found herself polling favorably compared to Biden (albeit with lower name recognition) in hypothetical general election surveys. The former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations under Trump hasn’t gained significant traction in national polling but she has closed the gap for second place in many of the early states, although she remains well behind the frontrunner.
The former vice president has increased his attacks on his old boss but has remained mired in single-digit polling. While many in the race have tried to moderate their position on or dance around the subject of abortion, Pence has doubled down on a national ban despite the lack of support for such a policy.
The former New Jersey governor has polled competitively for second place in New Hampshire but his virulent anti-Trump positions have capped his prospects with voters who still hold the 45th president in high esteem. On Sunday, Christie ruled out a Senate run against scandal-plagued Garden State Democrat Bob Menendez.
The South Carolina senator — the only Black Republican in the chamber or the presidential field — had a National Labor Relations Board complaint filed against him by the UAW last week after he said workers who strike should be fired. Scott responded by saying the union was trying to threaten him and he wasn’t intimidated. Scott has also supported a 15-week abortion ban and has said he will finish the U.S.-Mexico border wall begun by Trump if elected.
According to analysis from Politico and NBC News, the North Dakota governor is the most recent candidate to qualify for Wednesday’s festivities. The billionaire injured his leg playing basketball prior to the first debate but still participated.
Qualified, but skipping
Trump’s strategy of skipping the first debate did not result in him losing any ground to his competitors. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll last week found that he is the preferred candidate of 59% of Republicans nationwide. The next closest competitor was DeSantis at 13%, followed by Haley and Ramaswamy at 5% each. That’s in line with a recent NBC News poll, which also found Trump with 59% support, followed by DeSantis at 16% and no other competitor with more than 7% support.
The former Arkansas governor, who’s positioned himself as a moderate in the race, participated in the first debate but has not qualified for Wednesday’s event. In response, Hutchinson has criticized the RNC, saying the organization is “trying to shrink the list very quickly and artificially.” Hutchinson added that “the criteria that’s been set is the most stringent in the history of debates. And it is intentionally designed to limit the field and to take away the choice from voters.”