11:37 a.m. ET, August 23, 2023
These are the 8 Republican candidates who qualified for tonight’s debate
Mike Pence, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Doug Burgum, Tim Scott, Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie.
Scott Olson, Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Eight Republicans have qualified for the party’s first 2024 presidential primary debate
Wednesday night, the Republican National Committee announced Monday evening.
Former President Donald Trump – the clear front-runner in national and early state polls – has said he would skip the debate
in Milwaukee and called on his rivals to drop out.
Ron DeSantis: The Florida governor could wear the biggest target Wednesday night, as the top-polling candidate onstage in Trump’s absence. DeSantis has downsized and reshuffled his campaign in recent weeks after failing to make progress toward unseating Trump as the GOP’s standard-bearer in the primary’s early months. His turn in the national spotlight Wednesday could become a turning point in the party’s primary – either launching DeSantis forward or displacing him as the top Trump alternative.
Vivek Ramaswamy: The tech entrepreneur posted a video of himself shirtless, practicing tennis, on Monday in a tweet he described as his debate prep. He has also made appearances on the sorts of liberal media programs that many Republican contenders skip, such as a podcast with HBO host Bill Maher. A memo by a pro-DeSantis super PAC made public last week advised the Florida governor to attack Ramaswamy, an indication of the 38-year-old’s rise in the race.
Mike Pence: The former vice president faced more difficulties than some of his rivals in reaching the 40,000 donor threshold but did so with two weeks to spare. He suggested he had looked forward to a showdown with his former ticket mate. Criticizing Trump’s decision to skip the debate, Pence said Sunday on ABC News that every candidate who qualified “ought to be on the stage willing to square off and answer those tough questions.”
Nikki Haley: The former South Carolina governor and US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump offered a glimpse of how Republicans onstage could be more focused on chipping away at their lower-polling rivals’ support than on taking on Trump directly. On Monday, she criticized Ramaswamy, saying on social media that “his foreign policies have a common theme: they make America less safe.”
Tim Scott: The South Carolina senator has sought to offer a more positive contrast to rivals such as Trump and DeSantis – and he could be on a collision course with the Florida governor as they vie to become the top choice of those seeking to move on from the former president.
Chris Christie: The former New Jersey governor is perhaps the biggest wild card on Wednesday night’s stage. As a presidential contender in 2016, he all but ended Marco Rubio’s presidential hopes in a debate when he relentlessly mocked the Florida senator for delivering a “memorized 25-second speech.” Christie has positioned himself as a fierce Trump critic, but he won’t get a head-to-head showdown with Trump skipping the debate.
Doug Burgum: The North Dakota governor, who attracted donors with a gift-card scheme – $20 in exchange for $1 donations – has described himself as the least-known contender on Wednesday night’s stage. He said Sunday on NBC that he’ll have succeeded in the debate “if we get a chance to explain who we are, what we’re about and why we’re running.”
Asa Hutchinson: The former Arkansas governor has also positioned himself as a Trump critic. He previously complained about the RNC’s loyalty pledge requirement but told CNN’s Kasie Hunt on Sunday that he was signing the pledge because he was “confident that Donald Trump’s not going to be the nominee.”