Who’s in the first GOP debate? Here’s a rundown of candidates who qualify

WASHINGTON – As the 2024 presidential election heats up, Republicans vying for the White House are preparing to face off during the first GOP primary debate on Aug. 23 in Milwaukee − the largest city in the key battleground state of Wisconsin.

But who will qualify for a spot on stage?

The Republican National Committee set forth requirements in June that candidates must meet on status, polling, fundraising and pledging to take part in the debate.

How it works: Candidates must poll at least 1% in three national polls or 1% in two national polls and 1% from an early state poll from two “carve out” states recognized by the committee.

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Candidates must also have a minimum of 40,000 unique donors part of their presidential campaign committee – with at least 200 unique donors per state – and sign a pledge agreeing to support the eventual party nominee.

While top candidates in the Republican primary polls have qualified for a spot, other lesser-known candidates are struggling to make headway. Some candidates have refused to participate altogether.

Here are the candidates who are on track to qualify for the first debate:

  • Donald Trump

  • Ron DeSantis

  • Nikki Haley

  • Vivek Ramaswamy

  • Tim Scott

  • Chris Christie

Here are the candidates still working on qualifying: 

  • Mike Pence

  • Will Hurd

  • Doug Burgum

  • Asa Hutchinson

  • Ryan Binkley

  • Francis Suarez

  • Larry Elder

Here’s a deeper rundown of which Republican hopefuls might make an appearance − and which ones might not − on debate night.

Donald Trump

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - JULY 15: Former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Turning Point Action conference as he continues his 2024 presidential campaign on July 15, 2023 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – JULY 15: Former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Turning Point Action conference as he continues his 2024 presidential campaign on July 15, 2023 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Former President Donald Trump − the GOP frontrunner − will qualify for the debate.

A survey from Morning Consult shows Trump has 56% of support from potential GOP voters, and he’s placed first in other national and state polls. His campaign said that he has also raised more than $35 million during the second quarter of the year – about twice the amount raised during the first quarter, Politico first reported.

But whether Trump will participate is still up in the air.

Trump threatened to skip the debate in late June claiming on Truth Social that Fox News, one of the event’s sponsors, ignored his campaign events. He suggested to Fox News host Bret Baier on his show “Special Report” last month that he didn’t want to spar with low-polling candidates.

“They’re all very low,” Trump said. “So why would I allow people at one or two percent, at zero percent, to be hitting me with questions all night? You know, I don’t think it’s fair.”

He’s also considered scheduling a competing event for that night, according to NBC News.

Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis waves to the audience during Operation Top Nunn: Salute to the Troops at Ankeny Regional Airport on Saturday, July 15, 2023 in Ankeny, Iowa.

Gov. Ron DeSantis waves to the audience during Operation Top Nunn: Salute to the Troops at Ankeny Regional Airport on Saturday, July 15, 2023 in Ankeny, Iowa.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s trailing behind Trump in the Republican primary polls, will hit the debate stage.

His campaign announced he raised more than $20 million during the first six weeks of his candidacy and has about 50,000 donors as of late June, according to the New York Times. The survey from Morning Consult shows that DeSantis has garnered 17% of support among potential GOP voters.

DeSantis said in an interview two weeks ago with Fox News host Will Cain he will be on the debate stage regardless of whether Trump joins.

“I hope everybody who’s eligible comes,” DeSantis said. “I think it’s an important part of the process and I look forward to being able to be on the stage and introducing our candidacy and our vision and our leadership to a wide audience.”

Last month, DeSantis dodged the question of whether he would support Trump if he becomes the nominee in 2024. However, DeSantis later said that he didn’t avoid the question and would “respect the outcome of the process,” according to The Hill.

Nikki Haley

Former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is on track to meet the requirements for the debate.

Haley’s spokesperson told USA TODAY that she has “well over 40,000 unique donors” and is “looking forward to being on the debate stage.” The New York Times reported she’s raised over $7.3 million through her campaign and affiliated committees between April and June.

The survey from Morning Consult shows she has registered 3% of support among GOP voters, which is on par with two of her rivals. She’s also maintained scoring above 1% in other polls.

Haley indicated on Twitter she plans on supporting the eventual nominee for the Republican party.

“Absolutely irresponsible that Trump, DeSantis, and others won’t commit 100% to supporting the Republican nominee,” Haley tweeted. “There’s no room for personal vendettas in this battle to save our country.”

Vivek Ramaswamy

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks during the Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors national summit.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks during the Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors national summit. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Biotechnology entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has fulfilled the debate criteria, according to his spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin.

McLaughlin told USA TODAY that Ramaswamy has 65,000 donors. As part of his fundraising strategy, Ramaswamy has laid out incentives for supporters such as offering to give them a 10% cut of the total money he raises for his presidential bid, according to Axios.

The survey from Morning Consult shows Ramaswamy has received 8% support from GOP voters, surpassing former Vice President Mike Pence and trailing behind DeSantis. He’s also starting to receive double-digit figures in some polls. 

Ramaswamy will take the loyalty pledge if the other candidates do, McLaughlin said.

Mike Pence

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to a crowd during the North Carolina Republican Party Convention at Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C. on June 10, 2023.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to a crowd during the North Carolina Republican Party Convention at Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C. on June 10, 2023.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who filed to run for president last month, is facing difficulty meeting the debate criteria.

The survey from Morning Consult shows he has gained 7% support among voters, trailing behind Ramaswamy, and he’s maintained over 1% support in other polls. However, the New York Times reported last week he has not yet received donations from 40,000 unique donors.

He’s also raised less than $1.2 million for his campaign in the second quarter of the year − far below what his rivals have raised, according to the Washington Post.

Despite announcing his candidacy late compared to his rivals, Pence − a familiar face among voters − has already garnered attention from voters as he campaigns across key states and maintains a critical position against Trump’s stances on abortion, immigration, criminal justice and the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Pence said in a CNN town hall last month in Iowa he would support whoever ends up being the Republican nominee in 2024.

Tim Scott

Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott delivers his speech announcing his candidacy for president of the United States on the campus of Charleston Southern University in North Charleston, S.C., Monday, May 22, 2023.

Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott delivers his speech announcing his candidacy for president of the United States on the campus of Charleston Southern University in North Charleston, S.C., Monday, May 22, 2023.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott said during an interview last month on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” that he’s met the requirements for the debate.

The survey from Morning Consult shows he’s scored 3% support among GOP voters, and he’s also maintained an average 3.2% of support in the Republican primary polls, according to data from RealClearPolitics.

Scott’s campaign told the New York Post they’ve been backed by 40,000 donors in early July and announced Wednesday that they’ve raised $6.1 million in the second quarter of fundraising, according to The Hill.

Scott indicated in a Fox News interview in May he will support the eventual nominee, saying “all Republican candidates would be better than any Democrat candidate.”

Chris Christie

Republican Presidential candidate, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during a gathering, Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Republican Presidential candidate, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during a gathering, Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Former Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has qualified for the debate.

He told CNN host Anderson Cooper on Wednesday he’s received more than 40,000 unique donors in just 35 days. He’s taken in fundraising from big donors such as Motorola Solutions CEO Greg Brown and Lewis Eisenberg, who was a former ambassador to Italy during the Trump administration, according to CNBC News.

The survey from Morning Consult shows he garnered 3% of support among voters − on par with two of his rivals − and has scored above 1% in other polls. Although his poll numbers are not as high as Trump’s or DeSantis’, he appears to be gaining momentum as a fierce rival against his running mates.

Last month, Christie called the loyalty pledge a “useless idea” on CNN’s “State of the Union” but said he will do what is needed to be on the debate stage. In an ABC News interview, Christie said he will take the pledge “as seriously as Donald Trump did eight years ago,” when Trump signed the pledge but refused to agree to back the eventual nominee.

Will Hurd

Former Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, addresses the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition on April 22, 2023, in Clive, Iowa. Hurd, also a former CIA officer, entered the Republican presidential race two months later.

Former Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, addresses the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition on April 22, 2023, in Clive, Iowa. Hurd, also a former CIA officer, entered the Republican presidential race two months later.

Former Republican Texas Rep. Will Hurd is working to fulfill the debate requirements, according to his campaign spokesperson.

“Will entered the race only a few weeks ago, but he fully intends on fulfilling the polling and donor thresholds,” a Hurd for America spokesperson told USA TODAY.

However, the survey from Morning Consult shows Hurd received 0% of support among GOP voters, and he’s not included in some polls. He encouraged his followers on Twitter to donate $1 to support his campaign in late June so he could fulfill the 40,000 donor requirement.

The spokesperson said Hurd won’t sign the loyalty pledge from the Republican National Committee.

“This is not about whether or not he’ll support the Republican nominee, it’s about refusing to support Donald Trump,” the spokesperson said.

Doug Burgum

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum talks with supporters after he announced his bid for the Republican nomination for President, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Fargo, N.D.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum talks with supporters after he announced his bid for the Republican nomination for President, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Fargo, N.D.

Wealthy Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is taking several steps to meet the debate criteria.

The survey from Morning Consult shows Burgum has received 0% support among GOP voters, but he has reached 1% in certain national or state polls, according to The Hill.

Burgum reported raising $11.7 million for his campaign in the second quarter of the year last week, but about $10.2 million of that amount was self-funded, according to NBC News.

His campaign is offering a $20 gift card to anyone who donates at least one dollar, and the offer lasts for the first 50,000 donors. Experts, however, have raised questions over the legality of this method, according to NPR.

Asa Hutchinson

Republican presidential candidate former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at the Moms for Liberty meeting in Philadelphia, Saturday, July 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Republican presidential candidate former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at the Moms for Liberty meeting in Philadelphia, Saturday, July 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Former Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is struggling to fulfill the debate criteria.

He’s attracted crowds of no larger than 50 people to his Iowa events, according to the Des Moines Register. He also told radio host Hugh Hewitt in early July that he has more than 5,000 donors and has more work to do to reach the 40,000 donor requirement.

The survey from Morning Consult shows he has 1% support from GOP voters and a polling average of 0.8%, according to data from RealClearPolitics.

Despite his low numbers, Hutchinson told ABC News in May he is in the race for the long haul and that his support among voters will expand.

Ryan Binkley

Ryan Binkley speaks during the Turning Point Action general session at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach July 16, 2023.

Ryan Binkley speaks during the Turning Point Action general session at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach July 16, 2023.

Texas business executive Ryan Binkley is working towards fulfilling the debate requirements, according to a campaign spokesperson.

“Ryan is engaged in a major ad blitz and canvassing effort to be able to qualify for the debate,” his spokesperson told USA TODAY. “He is winning over supporters and donors everywhere he and his digital footprint go.”

But his name doesn’t appear in most national polls or the survey from Morning Consult. He has also raised $2 million for his campaign overall – $1.8 million of which he self-funded, according to Forbes.

Binkley’s spokesperson said he is close to 5,000 donors and expects “to exceed that by the end of the Turning Point Action conference.”

Francis Suarez

Republican presidential candidate Miami Mayor Francis Suarez speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, March 3, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md.

Republican presidential candidate Miami Mayor Francis Suarez speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, March 3, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md.

Republican Miami Mayor Francis Suarez might not qualify for the GOP debate.

But his spokesperson, Soledad Cedro, told USA TODAY Suarez’ campaign is three weeks old and he will be on the debate stage.

Suarez tweeted on Friday that his campaign committee had raised $1 million and will meet the criteria for the first debate, though he didn’t specify how many donors he has. Suarez’s major setback, however, are his low polling numbers.

The survey from Morning Consult show he’s received 0% support from GOP voters, and he has a polling average of 0.1% according to data from FiveThirtyEight.

Sean Freeder, a political science professor at the University of North Florida, previously told USA TODAY Suarez will have a difficult time leveraging himself as the top candidate given his late entrance and competition with two high-profile candidates from Florida.

Larry Elder

Republican presidential candidate Larry Elder speaks during the annual Roast and Ride fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa.

Republican presidential candidate Larry Elder speaks during the annual Roast and Ride fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa.

Conservative commentator Larry Elder is unlikely to qualify for the GOP debate.

His campaign referred USA TODAY to an opinion piece he wrote for The Hill, in which he criticized the debate requirements and said he is running for president to give back to the country rather than serving “as a piggy bank for a political party.”

However, he said in an interview with News Nation last month that he will work hard to meet the criteria.

He’s not included in the survey from Morning Consult, but data from RealClearPolitics shows he has a polling average of 0.5%.

His campaign spokesperson declined to say how many donors he has, but said Elder is “optimistic” he will reach 40,000.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: First GOP presidential debate: Here’s a rundown of who will qualify

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