After the first Republican presidential debate introduced the country to the candidates and shook up the polls last month, the second debate is set to winnow the field even further.
The Republican National Committee announced late Monday that seven candidates would appear onstage for the next debate, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 27. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was the only candidate to participate in the first debate who didn’t qualify this time around.
To qualify, candidates needed to draw donations from 50,000 individuals and reach 3% support in two national polls or in a mix of national and early state polls. Their donors needed to include 200 individuals from 20 different states. Additionally, they needed to sign a loyalty pledge agreeing to support whoever the party eventually nominates.
Like the first debate, this one won’t include former President Donald Trump, who remains the clear frontrunner in most polls. Trump has feuded with the people behind the venue, the Reagan Library, and has suggested since April he would not debate there. On the evening of the debate, Trump is expected to travel to Michigan to give a speech to striking auto workers.
“Wednesday’s debate is another opportunity for the RNC to share our diverse candidate field with the American people,” RNC chair Ronna McDaniel wrote in a statement. “The Republican Party is united around one common goal – Beating Biden – and there is no better place to showcase our conservative vision for the future than the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,”
In a statement Monday night, Hutchinson wrote that he would continue his campaign. He planned to deliver a speech to blue-collar and union workers in Detroit on Wednesday.
Here are the seven candidates who are set to be on the debate stage:
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been viewed for most of the year as Trump’s chief rival for the nomination. But his standing in the polls has fallen and he did not see a bounce in support after the last debate. DeSantis, 44, has faced criticism for his awkwardness on the campaign trail and for embracing right-wing culture war issues that could alienate some voters. Most recently, he has taken heat from Trump over signing a six-week abortion ban, which the former president called “a terrible mistake.” Nonetheless, the Governor won reelection in the Sunshine State last year by 20 points and still usually comes in second, if far below Trump, in national polls.
Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, the right-wing, uber-wealthy author of Woke, Inc., became the focus of attacks during the first Republican debate last month, with his opponents slamming his lack of experience and his foreign policy positions. He has also attracted more scrutiny over the last month over his hardline positions on immigration and his comments about the Sept. 11 attacks. But the 38-year-old is still polling near the top of the field and will again stand center stage next to DeSantis.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s position in the polls has risen since her standout performance in the first presidential debate last month. During the August debate, Haley advocated for finding a national consensus on abortion and criticized fellow Republicans for not being straight with voters about the difficulty of passing a federal abortion ban. She also attacked Ramaswamy’s foreign policy platform, playing up her experience as Ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration. Since the first debate, she has climbed to third in some national polls.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, long known for his evangelical faith and his close ties to the religious right, also had several standout moments during the last debate, mixing it up with Ramaswamy and defending his decision to certify the results of the 2020 election, which he insists was not stolen. Pence is continuing to run on a promise to restore American values and enact the most anti-abortion policy he can, though he is picking up little traction as he continues to poll in the single digits.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been Trump’s most vocal critic in the Republican presidential field. He was booed at the last debate when he criticized the former President and became one of only two candidates who said they would not support him if he is convicted of crimes, even if he was the GOP nominee. Christie stood behind his performance afterwards, keeping in line with his strategy of framing his campaign in opposition to the former President.
Since the last debate, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has continued to focus his campaign on reducing inflation and securing the border, all while emphasizing his personal success story. The only Black Republican in the Senate, he frequently talks about how he was able to overcome disadvantages and achieve the American Dream and touts his signature legislative achievement—Opportunity Zones designed to funnel money into struggling communities. In New Hampshire this week, he named some possible running mates and avoided any direct criticism of Trump, while touching on a few areas of contrast, like his support for a 15-week limit on abortion and his criticism of the United Auto Workers strike. Recently, Scott’s campaign has urged the RNC to weigh early state polls above national ones in deciding which candidates get the best podium placement in the second debate.
Following a national poll released on Saturday that found him at 3% support, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has qualified for the second debate at the last minute. Burgum, who has centered his bid on economic strength, energy independence, and taking on China and Russia, has poured millions of dollars into his own campaign, including for national TV ads and by handing out $20 gift cards in exchange for donations as small as $1 to help him meet the debate qualification criteria.
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