COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The field of candidates onstage for the third Republican presidential debate will be the smallest yet.
Five hopefuls will participate in Wednesday night’s debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, according to the Republican National Committee.
To have qualified for the third debate, candidates needed at least 4% support in two national polls or 4% in one national poll as well as two polls from four of the early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. All the polls used for qualification must have been approved by the RNC.
The White House hopefuls also needed at least 70,000 unique donors, with at least 200 of those coming from 20 states or territories. Additionally, they had to sign an RNC pledge promising to support the party’s eventual nominee.
The escalating qualification markers have become increasingly difficult for candidates to satisfy. One candidate, former Vice President Mike Pence, suspended his campaign last month, avoiding the ignominy of failing to qualify.
A look at where the candidates stand:
Early on, the Florida governor was seen as the top rival for Donald Trump, finishing a distant second to the current GOP front-runner in both early-voting state and national polls but raising an impressive amount of money.
DeSantis has recently shifted some of his Florida-based staff to Iowa, pinning his chances of emerging as an alternative to Trump alternative squarely on the leadoff state. This week he picked up the sought-after endorsement of Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The senator from South Carolina has been hoping that the debates could give his campaign a needed boost after his struggles to catch fire compared to his rivals. But there had even been some question of whether he would make the Miami stage, given its elevated polling requirements.
In a pre-debate memo shared with The Associated Press on Monday, Scott’s campaign manager sought to contrast his candidate with DeSantis and Haley, saying Scott planned to ask how either could “present a contrast with Donald Trump when he made each of their political careers.”
The only Republican woman onstage — and in the field — Haley has benefited from a bounce in attention following each of the previous debates, as well as the campaign’s shift toward foreign policy after Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
As she and DeSantis have escalated their barbs over issues including the Israel-Hamas war and China’s influence, Wednesday night’s debate offers a chance for them to duke it out in person.
The political newcomer and youngest GOP hopeful has been a debate-stage target of attacks on his lack of experience — jabs that have previously helped boost both Ramaswamy’s campaign coffers and his name ID in the broad Republican field.
After the second debate in September, Ramaswamy asked the RNC to change its rules for the third, requesting that participation be limited to four candidates, with a unique donor requirement of 100,000. The party kept its rules as is.
As many of his GOP rivals have gone all in on Iowa ahead of the state’s leadoff caucuses, the former New Jersey governor often has New Hampshire all to himself.
Christie has charted a path there as the race’s most vocal critic of Trump, casting himself as the only Republican willing to directly take him on, and arguing that Trump will lose to President Joe Biden next November if he’s the party’s nominee.
Without Trump at the debates, Christie has been left without his intended target but has brought him up nonetheless. In September, Christie looked directly into the camera and declared that if Trump keeps skipping debates, he would deserve a new nickname: “Donald Duck.”
WHO DECIDED NOT TO PARTICIPATE (AGAIN)
The current GOP front-runner is skipping his third straight debate, this time opting to hold a competing event of his own a half-hour away in Hialeah, Florida.
Trump says he is forgoing the debates because he does not want to elevate his lower-polling opponents by being on stage with them.
WHO QUALIFIED FOR PREVIOUS DEBATES BUT NOT THIS ONE
Burgum, a former software entrepreneur now in his second term as North Dakota’s governor, will miss his first debate of the cycle after coming up short on the polling requirements.
The former two-term Arkansas governor participated in the first debate but failed to qualify for the second. He said in a statement after missing out on the second debate that his goal was to increase his polling numbers to 4% in an early state before Thanksgiving.
“If that goal is met, then I remain competitive and in contention for either Caucus Day or Primary Day,” he wrote back in September.
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