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Who qualified for the second Republican presidential debate – and who didn’t?

The second GOP debate is right around the corner. These are the candidates who are set to take the stage

Faiza Saqib
Tuesday 26 September 2023 14:06 BST
Trump skips 2nd Republican debate

Seven candidates are set to take the stage on Wednesday for the second Republican presidential debate.

Hosted by Fox Business Network and Univision, the debate will kick off at 9pm ET at Ronald Reagan’s presidential library in California.

Fox News Media’s Dana Perino and Stuart Varney and Univision’s Ilia Calderón will act as moderators.

In order to qualify, candidates needed to gain at least three per cent support in two national polls or three per cent in one national poll as well as two polls from four of the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

The White House hopefuls also needed at least 50,000 unique donors, including at least 200 from 20 states or territories. They also had to sign the Republican National Comittee (RNC) pledge promising to support the party’s eventual nominee.

Here’s who qualified for the second Republican presidential debate, who did not and who is choosing not to participate:


Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSanris (AP)

Ron DeSantis, 45, is the 46th governor of Florida and – though he has long been seen as a top rival to Donald Trump –he remains nearly 40 percentage points behind the former president in opinion polls.

As of recently, Mr DeSantis’ efforts have struggled to live up to the high expectations for his campaign.

National Republican support has slipped substantially from its high point earlier this year – even after his attempts to reboot his campaign.

Public polls note that 42 per cent of the public find him “favourable” while 48 per cent find him “unfavourable”.

Mike Pence

Mike Pence (AP)

Mr Trump’s former vice president Mike Pence, 64, is appealing directly to the evangelical Christian community, but his campaign has struggled to raise money, and he is stuck in the low single digits in polls.

Pence is campaigning on his reputation as a statesman and experienced elected official. He showed off his debate chops last month with several combative moments with other candidates in Milwaukee over some of the biggest dividing lines in the Republican nominating contest.

Now, he is angling to see more action in California.

In 2012, Mr Pence was elected the governor of Indiana after six terms in the House of Representatives, where he became the chairman of the Republican conference – the third-highest position in House Republican leadership.

He dropped his campaign for re-election as governor when Mr Trump named him as his running mate in 2016.

Tim Scott

Tim Scott (AP)

The senator from South Carolina did not have a breakout moment in the first debate in Milwaukee and is hoping to change that during Wednesday’s event.

Tim Scott, 58, has served as senator since 2013; he previously served in the South Carolina House of Representatives and the US House of Representatives.

Hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation, he has asked the party to change how it orders candidates on stage in an effort to get a more prominent podium placement. However, there is no indication the RNC plans to do that.

According to a public poll conducted on 14 September by Harvard Caps Harris, Scott’s favourability was at 31 per cent with 26 per cent voting him as “unfavourable”.

Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley (AP)

Nikki Haley, 51, is the former governor of South Carolina. She served as governor from 2011 to 2017. She is also the first Indian American to serve in a presidential cabinet.

Ms Haley first announced her campaign on 14 February 2023 in a video and will be the only woman on stage at the second presidential debate.

She experienced a fundraising bounce after her performance in the first debate, with her campaign saying she raised at least $1m in the following 72 hours. During that debate, Ms Haley borrowed a quote from Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister: “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”

In a recent poll of her home state, the former United Nations ambassador came in in second place – well behind Trump but slightly ahead of other GOP rivals.

If she wins the Republican nomination – and then the 2024 election – she will become the first female president of the United States as well as the first Asian American president.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy (AP)

Vivek Ramaswamy, 38, is an entrepreneur and the founder of pharmaceutical company Roivant Sciences.

As a political newcomer, he scored many memorable moments at the first debate, criticising some rivals as “super PAC puppets” who were using “ready-made, pre-prepared slogans” to attack him.

He was also a frequent target of incoming attacks due to his lack of experience. However, those attacks helped boost both his campaign coffers and his name in the broad Republican field.

In a poll conducted by Ipsos, between 8 to 14 September, Ramaswamy was noted as “favourable” by 34 per cent of the public and “unfavourable” by another 34 per cent.

Chris Christie

Chris Christie (AP)

Chris Christie, 61, served as the 55th governor of New Jersey from 2002 to 2008 and became an adviser to Mr Trump during his time in office – before becoming one of his biggest rivals.

Mr Christie first portrayed himself as the only candidate ready to take on Mr Trump, calling on the former president to “show up at the debates and defend his record”.

Without Mr Trump at the first debate, Mr Christie was left without his primary intended target. At times, he was drowned out by the audience’s boos as he pushed back aggressively on questions around whether the candidates would support Mr Trump if he becomes the frontrunnner – even if he is convicted of felony charges.

Mr Christie’s favourability has fallen, with around 58 per cent voting him as “unfavourable”.

Doug Burgum

Doug Burgum (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Doug Burgum, 67, is a businessman, investor, and philanthropist who has been serving as the 33rd governor of North Dakota since 2016.

Mr Burgum nearly missed his first debate due to a tendon injury that he sustained while playing basketball with his campaign staff, but he still managed to participate.

At the time, he told reporters that he managed to stand on one leg behind the podium during the debate.

During his presidential campaign, the entrepreneur has been using his income to boost his campaign by giving away $20 gift cards – dubbed “Biden Relief Cards” as an attack on President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy – in exchange for $1 donations. An act that has been heavily criticised.

Qualified – but skipping

Donald Trump

Donald Trump (AP)

The former president, who is facing two separate federal indictments and dozens of criminal charges in four states, has qualified for the second debate – but decided to skip it.

Before the first debate, Trump openly talked about how he had no interest in attending the events, claiming he does not want to elevate his lower-polling opponents by participating in a debate against them.

Instead, he conducted an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that aired on X at the same time as the first debate.

In a similar move for the second debate, he is instead planning to meet with and give an address to union workers in Michigan.

Failed to qualify:

Asa Hutchinson

Asa Hutchinson (AP)

Asa Hutchinson, 72, has served as the 46th governor of Arkansas since 2015.

He met the threshold for the first Republican debate but has failed to qualify for the second.

Now, he plans to hold a rival press conference in Michigan on Wednesday, where he is going to “call out Donald Trump’s false promises”.

Despite falling short of the polling requirements, Mr Hutchinson said on X that he will “continue our campaign to bring out the best of America with events scheduled in Iowa, New Hampshire, and across the country in the next several weeks.”

“I understand that the RNC and the media are trying to reduce the number of candidates, but I measure success based on the response I receive in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire,” the post continued.

In the latest public poll, Mr Hutchinson was voted 18 per cent favourable and 26 per cent unfavourable.

Additional reporting from agencies.

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