Some Republican 2024 contenders are still scrambling to qualify for the party’s first presidential debate later this month in Milwaukee.
The Republican National Committee established three requirements for presidential hopefuls to qualify for the August 23 debate stage.
First, candidates must attract at least 40,000 unique donors, with at least 200 unique donors per state – a mark easy for the best-known figures in the race to hit, but one that lesser-known figures have used gift card offers, concert tickets and more to reach.
Second, candidates must reach at least 1% in three national polls that meet the RNC’s requirements or at least 1% in two national polls and in two polls from separate early voting states.
Finally, candidates must sign the RNC’s “Beat Biden pledge” – a commitment to back the eventual Republican nominee, no matter who wins the primary.
Here’s a look at who’s met which criteria ahead of the first debate.
These candidates have met the unique donor threshold, polled well enough in qualifying surveys and signed the pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee.
The Florida governor told reporters Thursday in Iowa he had signed the RNC’s pledge. “The goal needs to be to defeat Joe Biden and change the direction of this country,” DeSantis said. “That mission is bigger than any one person. And so, you’ve got to be willing to step up, and I realized that this is a team effort. So, I was proud to do that.”
The former South Carolina governor and US ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday tweeted a photo of her signed pledge, dated Wednesday. She had crossed out the phrase “Beat Biden” on the top of the pledge and written “President Harris” instead – referring to her oft-repeated insistence that the 2024 election against an aging Democratic incumbent carries with it the possibility of Vice President Kamala Harris being in the White House. “Alright fellas, your turn,” she said.
The entrepreneur, who has signed the pledge, has attracted a base of small-dollar donors thanks in part to his early entry into the race. He also promised grassroots fundraisers a 10% cut of the money they bring into his campaign.
Thanks in part to a scheme in which his campaign offered $20 gift cards in exchange for $1 donations, the little-known North Dakota governor met the donor minimum. His campaign announced Thursday he has also signed the pledge. “Now he will be the outsider, governor and business leader on the debate stage,” spokesman Lance Trover said.
Scott signed the loyalty pledge on Wednesday, according to a copy obtained by CNN. In a statement announcing the South Carolina senator’s signing of the pledge, Scott said he’s anticipating sharing his “positive, optimistic message” at the first debate.
These candidates and their aides have not yet said whether they have signed the pledge to back the eventual Republican nominee.
Whether the former president will be on stage is the biggest question surrounding the first debate. In an interview with Newsmax on Wednesday, Trump said he will “let it be known next week” whether he plans to attend. “I haven’t, you know, totally ruled it out. I would love to do it in many ways because I sort of enjoy that, but we’ll let people know next week,” he said.
The former vice president did not have the sort of small-dollar donor base that many of his rivals brought to the race. But his campaign announced on August 8 that he has reached the threshold. “Hopefully former President Trump has the courage to show up,” Pence communications adviser Devin O’Malley said in a statement.
The former New Jersey governor has widely panned the pledge, but indicated he’ll do what he needs to do to participate in the debate. “I’ll take the pledge in 2024 just as seriously as Donald Trump took it in 2016,” Christie has said.
Of Trump’s potential absence, he said on Fox News this week: “The only good thing for me will be I will have more time to speak because he won’t be droning on about his three indictments with a fourth to come.”
This candidate has not yet said his campaign has reached the minimum of 40,000 unique donors.
A super PAC supporting the former Arkansas governor on Monday launched an ad urging viewers to donate $1 to help him secure his spot on the debate stage. He met the polling threshold the next day, but his campaign has not yet said whether he has met the donor minimum. He has spoken out against the pledge requirement.
These candidates have not yet reached the required polling minimums to make the stage.
The Miami mayor is little known nationally, and told The Hill this week that making the debate stage is “frankly priceless” for his 2024 hopes. He tweeted Monday that he had reached the required 40,000 donors.
The Michigan businessman gave away gas cards, tickets to a Big & Rich concert and more to attract donors. However, he has little national recognition and will need to register in polls to qualify for the debate.
These candidates have not yet said they have met any of the GOP’s required marks to make the first debate stage.
The California conservative talk radio host, who was the leading GOP candidate in the 2021 gubernatorial recall, has sharply criticized the RNC’s debate qualification requirements. He faces an uphill climb.
The former Texas congressman is one of the most strident Trump critics in the race. But he was booed at a recent Iowa GOP gathering after he lit into Trump, underscoring the reality that the party has little appetite for attacks on a former president who remains popular with the base.
Hurd told CNN on August 11 that he is close to meeting the donor threshold but said he won’t sign the pledge “as is,” saying he “can’t lie to get access to a microphone.”
This story has been updated with additional details.