8 Candidates Make the Cut for First Republican Debate

The field will face off in Milwaukee without the frontrunner, former President Trump

DES MOINES, IOWA – JULY 28: Republican presidential candidate businessman Vivek Ramaswamy speaks to guests at the Republican Party of Iowa 2023 Lincoln Dinner on July 28, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. Thirteen Republican presidential candidates were scheduled to speak at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Republican National Committee said eight candidates qualified for the first debate of the 2024 presidential cycle in Milwaukee Wednesday night, but they will face off without the party’s frontrunner.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy will appear on the stage. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also made the cut.

The debate, co-hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, will air on Fox News at 9 p.m. ET.

Former President Trump, who has a wide lead in the polls – an average of 41.3 points, according to Real Clear Politics’ latest roundup – said Sunday he plans to skip all of the debates in the Republican primary cycle.

Instead, he and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson are attempting to overshadow the live event. Carlson will stream a pretaped interview with Trump on his talk show series on X.

Trump has also announced he will turn himself in to Georgia authorities on Thursday morning to face state charges for subversion of the 2020 election. Observers have noted that the spectacle will also serve to upstage discussion about the debate in the following day’s news cycle.

The four-times indicted former president took a pot shot at Hutchinson on his Truth Social platform early Tuesday, posting, “‘Aida’ Hutchinson is too boring. He’s at less than 1% and heading south. Zero chance!”

Trump is not the only declared Republican candidate who will not make it to Milwaukee, though it’s likely he the only one who will be a topic at the debate itself.

Miami Mayor Francisco Suarez, former Texas Rep. Will Hurd, conservative radio host Larry Elder and businessman Perry Johnson did not meet the criteria set by the RNC, which included earning at least 1% support in several polls through Monday and drawing a minimum of 40,000 donors, with at least 200 donors in 20 or more states.

The candidates must also sign the pledge to support the eventual party nominee and not participate in debates that aren’t sanctioned by the party — a step Trump has refused to take.

“The RNC is excited to showcase our diverse candidate field and the conservative vision to beat Joe Biden on the debate stage Wednesday night,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “I’d like to thank the RNC’s debate committee Chairman Dave Bossie and Co-Chair Anne Hathaway and our debate partners, Fox News, Young America’s Foundation, and Rumble for their work to kick off the primary process that will put our party and eventual nominee in the best position to take back the White House next fall.”