Former Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday he has now qualified for the first Republican presidential debate of the 2024 campaign to be held August 23, in Milwaukee. Pence claims he’s reached the Republican National Committee’s 40-thousand donor count required to take part in the debate.
With just two weeks to go, the dynamics of who will be on stage are coming into clearer focus.
So far, eight candidates, including Pence, have qualified: Former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and North Dakota Governor Doug Bergum.
The R.N.C. required candidates to score at least 1 percent in three high-quality national polls or a mix of national and early-state polls, plus gather a minimum of 40,000 donors in 20 or more states.
One big question remains, though: whether the clear frontrunner will even show up.
The latest New York Times/Siena poll shows Donald Trump crushing each opponent across almost every demographic group.
One of his challengers, Nikki Haley, told CBN News she understands why he may not show up.
We reminded her that the 45th president is thinking he may just skip the first debate, and maybe the second debate in California as well, then asked Haley, “What do you make of that type of talk?”
She replied, “It’s his decision to make. I think at the end of the day he probably sees it would do him more harm to get on a debate stage than not.”
“To give folks like you and others oxygen?,” she was asked. She responded, “Well, I think with the numbers he has now, why would he get on a debate stage and risk that? But he’ll have to make that decision when he wants to. I think at the end of the day the American people will want to see him on that stage. I think they’ll want to see all the candidates on the stage.”
So, while Trump keeps the field and others guessing, here’s what’s happening with the rest.
A Trump vacancy could be a needed opportunity for Ron DeSantis, currently polling second.
While he’s struggling to gain traction, the candidate polling the highest will be placed center stage. That means DeSantis would have prime placement if Trump skips.
Then, there are the rest, hoping for a breakthrough moment: Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Doug Bergum and Vivek Ramaswamy, who has seen his poll numbers rise recently, possibly due to his vocal defense of Trump during his legal troubles.
Recently on CNBC, Ramaswamy made a commitment: “On January 20trh, 2025, if I’m elected the next U.S. president, to pardon Donald J. Trump for these offenses in this federal case.”
As for the wildcard, look no further than Chris Christie, otherwise known as the Trump wrecking ball.
While Christie would likely remain the main attack dog against the former president, the question is whether it will stick against Trump’s teflon nature.
That brings us to Mike Pence, who, despite his campaign’s insistence that he’ll make the debate stage, remains on the outside, looking in.
That’s because even though he has satisfied the low bar polling requirement, the well-known former governor, congressman and vice president is struggling in the fundraising arena.
Speaking In the early caucus state of Iowa, Pence noted, “Our focus is not on reaching some arbitrary goal set by the Republican National Committee. It’s about telling our story here in Iowa.”