Pence says he's now met polling, donor qualifications for first Republican debate

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday announced that he has qualified for the first Republican debate of the 2024 cycle, securing enough donors with just two weeks until candidates gather in Milwaukee

Meg Kinnard
Tuesday 08 August 2023 17:23 BST

Former Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday he has qualified for the first Republican debate of the 2024 presidential cycle, securing the required number of donors with just two weeks until candidates gather in Milwaukee.

According to his campaign, Pence has amassed 40,000 unique donors, checking off the final debate requirement set by the Republican National Committee. His advisers say he did so quickly, nine weeks after launching his campaign.

Pence had long ago met the RNC's polling requirements for the Aug. 23 debate — at least 1% in three high-quality national polls or a mix of national and early-state polls, between July 1 and Aug. 21 — but struggled to notch the mandated number of donors.

Both Pence and his advisers had expressed confidence that he would meet that qualification, but his fundraising appeals intensified as the prospect loomed that he might not make the stage.

He got a boost in attention last week in the form of a newly unsealed federal indictment outlining the first criminal charges against Donald Trump in connection with the former president's efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Revealing Pence’s central role to the case, the indictment was informed, in part, by notes that the then-vice president kept of his conversations with Trump in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump tried to pressure Pence to go along with his attempt to keep the two men in power. In one episode, Trump is alleged to have told Pence that he was “too honest” for rejecting Trump’s false claims that Pence had the power to stop congressional certification of Joe Biden's victory.

Marking a notable change in tone for a usually cautious candidate who has struggled to break through in a primary dominated by his former boss, Pence’s campaign seized on the opportunity, unveiling new T-shirts and baseball caps for sale featuring the phrase “Too Honest” in big red letters.

Since the release of the indictment Pence has criticized Trump more aggressively, casting himself as the person who stood up to Trump, averting catastrophe.

Trump attorney John Lauro said on several Sunday news shows that the president never asked Pence to overturn the will of the voters in the 2020 election, but only wanted him to “pause” the vote certification to allow states to investigate possible election fraud.

Pence denied that claim, saying that Trump seemed “convinced” as early as December that Pence had the right to reject or return votes and that on Jan. 5, Trump’s attorneys told him “’We want you to reject votes outright.”

Pence becomes the eighth candidate to announce qualification for the first debate and, according to his campaign, was the first to submit donor count verification to the Republican National Committee. Of those eight, Trump has questioned why he should debate his rivals and floated the idea of holding a competing event of his own instead.

The requirements get higher for subsequent debates. According to a person familiar with the markers set by the RNC, candidates will need at least 3% in two national polls or 3% in one national poll as well as two polls from four of the early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — to qualify for the second debate, scheduled for Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

For the second debate, the White House hopefuls must also have at least 50,000 unique donors, with at least 200 of those coming from 20 different states or territories, according to the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the qualifications and spoke on the condition of anonymity.


Meg Kinnard can be reached at

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