Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie and Tim Scott have all met the Republican National Committee’s polling and fundraising thresholds to earn invitations to the first primary debate next month, according to POLITICO’s tracking of the qualification process.
Whether they all will show up is another question.
Trump, in particular, has indicated he is not inclined to step foot on the stage, publicly waffling on whether he’ll make the trip to Milwaukee at the end of next month.
“Ronald Reagan didn’t do it, and a lot of other people didn’t do it. When you have a big lead, you don’t do it,” the former president said during an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” last weekend.
It is a melodrama that could carry on for weeks: Candidates have until 48 hours before the Aug. 23 debate to indicate if they’ll participate.
Trump’s potential lack of participation could completely redefine the first debate. If Trump shows, it’s the first real opportunity for his rivals to draw a contrast between themselves and the frontrunner.
Sunday brought more clarity on who could be on stage. A new Iowa poll from Fox Business Network qualified five other candidates in addition to the ex-president to meet the Republican National Committee’s threshold for polling, according to POLITICO’s tracking, and each has said they have already met the donor threshold.
DeSantis, the Florida governor, has said he will show up regardless of whether Trump does. Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, as well as Scott, South Carolina’s junior senator, and Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur, have all indicated that they will attend, too.
Christie, the former New Jersey governor, has said he is eager to debate but has said he would not support Trump if he is the nominee, clashing with another RNC requirement that candidates sign a loyalty pledge to the eventual nominee as a condition of participating in the debate.
“I’m going to take the pledge just as seriously as Donald Trump took it in 2016,” Christie said in an interview with CNN last month.
Former Vice President Mike Pence has also hit the polling threshold. But unlike the other six candidates, it’s not clear if he will meet the individual donor threshold — 40,000 unique donors, with 200 donors in 20 different states or territories — that the others have.
“We will qualify. Getting 40,000 donors in just a few short weeks is a challenge,” Pence said on “Fox and Friends” on last week. “We’re not offering gift cards, not offering kickbacks or tickets to soccer games, just traveling.”
In addition to the donors, candidates need to hit one percent in three national polls that meet the RNC’s methodological requirements, or one percent in two national polls and one percent in two polls conducted separate of the four early states.
Outside of Pence, few other candidates — at least right now — seem poised to make the stage. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is only one national poll away from meeting the polling threshold, after registering at 1 percent in the Fox Business Iowa poll and a second survey from the same outlet in South Carolina, also released on Sunday. But he still needs to amass 40,000 donors and was well short of that number at last count.
Some long-shot candidates have rolled out outlandish schemes to try to meet the donor threshold. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, for example, has promised people who give him a buck $20 gift cards in return, and he said earlier this week he had hit his goal.
Burgum — who has run millions of dollars worth of TV advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire — is still in search of two national polls showing him at at least 1 percent, after meeting that threshold in Iowa and a previously-released survey from the University of New Hampshire in the Granite State.
The RNC also requires candidates who want to participate in the debate to sign a bevy of pledges, including to not participate in non-RNC sanctioned debates, a data-sharing agreement with the party committee and the aforementioned loyalty pledge.
Eric Bazail-Eimil contributed to this report.