Here’s who has (and hasn’t) qualified for the first Republican presidential debate



The sprint to qualify for Wednesday’s first 2024 Republican presidential debate is still underway for some candidates, even as the top-polling contender, former President Donald Trump, makes plans to skip the showdown in Milwaukee.

The Republican National Committee established three requirements for presidential hopefuls to qualify for the August 23 debate stage.

First, candidates must attract at least 40,000 unique donors, with at least 200 unique donors per state – a mark easy for the best-known figures in the race to hit, but one that lesser-known figures have used gift card offers, concert tickets and more to reach.

Second, candidates must reach at least 1% in three national polls that meet the RNC’s requirements or at least 1% in two national polls and in two polls from separate early voting states.

Finally, candidates must sign the RNC’s “Beat Biden pledge” – a commitment to back the eventual Republican nominee, no matter who wins the primary.

Here’s a look at who’s met which criteria ahead of the first debate.

These candidates have met the unique donor threshold, polled well enough in qualifying surveys and signed the pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee.

Mike Pence

The former vice president’s campaign said Friday he had signed the RNC’s loyalty pledge. In an email to donors Friday, Pence campaign manager Steve DeMaura said the Indiana Republican is heading into next week’s debate as “the one candidate on the stage with nothing to prove, or not in need of a moment.”

Ron DeSantis

The Florida governor told reporters last week in Iowa that he had signed the RNC pledge. “The goal needs to be to defeat Joe Biden and change the direction of this country,” DeSantis said. “That mission is bigger than any one person. And so, you’ve got to be willing to step up, and I realized that this is a team effort. So, I was proud to do that.”

Nikki Haley

The former South Carolina governor and US ambassador to the United Nations last week tweeted a photo of her signed pledge. She had crossed out the phrase “Beat Biden” on the top of the pledge and written “President Harris” instead – referring to her oft-repeated insistence that the 2024 election against an aging Democratic incumbent carries with it the possibility of Vice President Kamala Harris being in the White House. “Alright fellas, your turn,” she said.

Vivek Ramaswamy

The entrepreneur, who has signed the pledge, has attracted a base of small-dollar donors thanks in part to his early entry into the race. He also promised grassroots fundraisers a 10% cut of the money they bring into his campaign.

Doug Burgum

Thanks in part to a scheme in which his campaign offered $20 gift cards in exchange for $1 donations, the little-known North Dakota governor met the donor minimum. His campaign announced last week he had also signed the pledge. “Now he will be the outsider, governor and business leader on the debate stage,” spokesman Lance Trover said.

Tim Scott

Scott signed the loyalty pledge last week, according to a copy obtained by CNN. In a statement announcing his signing of the pledge, the South Carolina senator said he’s anticipating sharing his “positive, optimistic message” at the first debate.

Met polling and donor thresholds; hasn’t signed pledge

These candidates and their aides have not yet said whether they have signed the pledge to back the eventual Republican nominee.

Donald Trump

The former president has not yet announced he has signed the pledge, but it may not matter: He plans to skip the debate. Instead, he is expected to sit for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, multiple sources familiar with his plans told CNN. Trump’s advisers continue to add the caveat, however, that the former president could ultimately change his mind and decide at the 11th hour that he wants to attend the debate.

Chris Christie

The former New Jersey governor has widely panned the pledge, but indicated he’ll do what he needs to do to participate in the debate. “I’ll take the pledge in 2024 just as seriously as Donald Trump took it in 2016,” Christie has said.

Of Trump’s potential absence, he said on Fox News last week: “The only good thing for me will be I will have more time to speak because he won’t be droning on about his three indictments with a fourth to come.”

This candidate has not yet said if his campaign has reached the minimum of 40,000 unique donors.

Asa Hutchinson

The former Arkansas governor has met the polling threshold, and he told CNN on Friday that he is “very close” to reaching the donor minimum. “We have until Monday evening in order to qualify for the 40,000 individual donors, and it is up to all the viewers,” said Hutchinson, whose campaign also announced Friday it was raffling off movie tickets to attract sufficient contributors. He has spoken out against the pledge requirement.

These candidates have not yet reached the required polling minimums to make the stage.

Will Hurd

The former Texas congressman said Friday on CNN that he has met the donor minimum but has not yet met the polling threshold. Hurd previously said he wouldn’t sign the RNC pledge but he appeared to have shifted his position. “I feel good about that, about being able to be ready to be on that debate stage, which we’re planning on happening. I feel confident we’re going to be in Milwaukee on Wednesday,” he said.

Francis Suarez

The Miami mayor is little known nationally, and told The Hill last week that making the debate stage would be “frankly priceless” for his 2024 hopes. He tweeted last week that he had reached the required 40,000 donors. He has also claimed to have met the polling threshold; however, most of the polls he has cited do not meet the RNC’s criteria for debate qualification.

Perry Johnson

The Michigan businessman gave away gas cards, tickets to a Big & Rich concert and more to attract donors. However, he has little national recognition and will need to register in polls to qualify for the debate.

This candidate has not yet said if he has met any of the GOP’s required marks to make the first debate stage.

Larry Elder

The California conservative talk radio host, who was the leading GOP candidate in the 2021 gubernatorial recall, has sharply criticized the RNC’s debate qualification requirements. He faces an uphill climb, though he said on social media Friday that his campaign needed donations from 7,000 more individuals to meet the donor threshold.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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