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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

7 candidates qualify for second Republican debate; Trump won’t attend

The first Republican presidential primary debate stage is set, at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.

By Maggie Astor

Seven candidates qualified for the second Republican presidential debate, the Republican National Committee announced Monday night, just one fewer than participated in the first debate last month.

The event, scheduled for today from 9 to 11 p.m. Eastern time, will include:

— North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum;

— Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie;

— Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis;

— Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and former United Nations ambassador;

— Former Vice President Mike Pence;

— Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy;

— And Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Although former President Donald Trump, the runaway front-runner in polls, easily exceeded the donor and polling requirements for participation, he is planning to skip the debate. He also skipped the first debate, which still managed to draw nearly 13 million viewers and was also the most-watched cable telecast of the year outside of sports.

For his rivals, time is running short to gain ground on the leader. Trump’s closest rival, DeSantis, has fallen in recent polling, and the other candidates have been unable to make substantial breakthroughs. They will need to seize on moments like debates, with national audiences, to make noise in early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who qualified for the first debate, failed to meet the tougher requirements for the second. He needed 50,000 donors (up from 40,000 last month) and 3% (up from 1%) in at least two national polls accepted by the RNC, or in one national poll plus two polls from early-voting states.

It is unclear whether he missed both requirements or just one. He did not meet the new polling threshold, according to a New York Times analysis, but his campaign did not respond to requests to confirm whether he had met the donor threshold.

No one who missed the first debate qualified for the second. Most of the lesser-known candidates — including former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, talk-show host Larry Elder, businessman and pastor Ryan Binkley, and businessman Perry Johnson — reported having met the increased donor requirement, but 3% in multiple polls was a bridge too far.

Like last month, when Trump recorded an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson to be released while his rivals were on the debate stage, Trump has his own counterprogramming plan. He will be in Detroit to give a prime-time speech to current and former union workers as members of the United Automobile Workers near the two-week mark on their strike.

Trump has also refused to sign a pledge to support the Republican nominee regardless of who it is, which is a requirement for debate participation.

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