Which Candidates Will Be on Stage for the Third Republican Debate?

Which Candidates Will Be on Stage for the Third Republican Debate?

One year away from the 2024 election, the GOP primary field is contracting, and the number of opportunities candidates will have to make an impression on the national stage is dwindling.

So far, five candidates appear to have qualified for the third Republican presidential debate, scheduled for Wednesday, November 8 at 8 p.m. ET in Miami, compared to the seven who qualified for the last one. 

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The most notable absence will be former Vice President Mike Pence, who dropped out of the race late last month. Pence is now looking to back another candidate in an attempt to thwart former President Donald Trump, whose primary victory is looking increasingly inevitable. 

A Trump campaign spokesperson said in September that Trump would not be attending the third debate, with his team calling on the Republican National Committee to cancel all future debates. The former president is scheduled to rally in nearby Hialeah, FL, on Wednesday night, where his team will even have a spin room to counter what may be said about him at the debate, according to a recent press release. 

To qualify for the third debate, the Republican National Committee requires candidates to have drawn donations from 70,000 individuals, including at least 200 donors from at least 20 different states. They also need 4% support in two qualifying national polls or in a mix of national and early state polls conducted on or after September 1, and they must sign a loyalty pledge agreeing to support whoever the party eventually nominates. They have until Monday, Nov. 6, to meet those requirements. 

Here are the five candidates who say they have qualified so far:

Ron DeSantis

Lately, the Florida Governor has found himself sparring with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who has caught up to him in some polls. In particular, DeSantis has argued that he has been tougher on China and slammed her comments about Gaza. The attacks suggest that his status as the most viable Trump alternative is no longer secure. After winning reelection by a resounding 20 points in the Sunshine State last year, Desantis, 45, has continued to face a barrage of criticism for everything from embracing right-wing culture war issues to his choice of footwear. In another blow, one of his home-state senators, Rick Scott, recently backed Trump. 

Nikki Haley

Haley’s performances in the last two debates have catapulted her to second place in some polls. Donors are giving her a second look, especially due to her foreign policy credentials as a former Ambassador to the United Nations. For some Republican financiers and operatives, the war in Israel has underscored Haley’s experience. Additionally, many see Haley, 51, as a candidate who a significant number of Republicans could coalesce around against Trump—the Charleston Post and Courier recently called for just that—and one who could win over moderates in a general election. 

Vivek Ramaswamy

Despite arriving on the national stage with a bang and mixing it up with his rivals during the two previous debates, Ramaswamy has seen little progress in the polls. This fall, the 38-year-old entrepreneur has continued to embrace positions controversial within his party, for instance, by suggesting both that the U.S. should reduce its support for Israel and that the country should put Hamas leaders’ heads on stakes. He has also continued arguing with Democrats, as he did in a recent debate with fellow Indian American Rep. Ro Khanna of California. But his campaign is now also employing more traditional methods of reaching voters, including multimillion-dollar ad buys in Iowa and New Hampshire. While he flirted with skipping the third debate due to concerns about the RNC’s rules, his campaign announced he has decided to attend after all. 

Chris Christie

Even as Trump has appeared increasingly dominant, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has continued to frame his bid in opposition to the former President. He recently predicted that Trump will be convicted in one of the many cases he is currently facing. For his part, Christie, 61, is languishing in most national polls, but is often running in fourth in New Hampshire, where he has focused much of his effort

Tim Scott

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott remains outside the top tier of candidates, despite his reputation for being well-liked by his colleagues and GOP donors. His campaign recently consolidated its resources in Iowa, a state he sees as key to his bid. Running on a message of optimism and faith in America, Scott, 58, lacked standout moments in previous debates, where he largely steered clear of conflict with other candidates. 

Who Could Still Qualify

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum’s campaign has announced he has met the donor requirement for the debate. His best performance in recent public polls appears to be 3%. 

An even longer shot is former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who did not make the second debate stage and had to replace his campaign manager this week. No public national poll has found him with more than 1% support in months.

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