early and often

Second Republican Debate: Who’s In, Who’s Out, Who’s Boycotting

The stage at the first debate in Milwaukee. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For all the drama surrounding the first Republican presidential debate and Donald Trump’s decision to boycott it, the event didn’t exactly shake up the race. The most aggressive and visible debaters, Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley, got modest bumps in national and early-state polls. Ron DeSantis largely stood pat in the debate and didn’t gain any ground on Trump. And despite some initial indicators that Trump has lost a bit of steam, he’s now reached an all-time high in the national polls (57.3 percent, according to RealClearPolitics). Time is beginning to run out for Trump’s rivals, and they will need to make some noise during the second debate at the Ronald Reagan Library in California on September 27.

The criteria the Republican National Committee has established for the second debate are stepped-up replicas of the first debate’s requirements: 50,000 unique donors drawn from 20 states and a 3 percent showing in two qualifying national polls — or one national poll and two early-state polls — taken since August 1. As before, the RNC is not identifying qualifying polls in advance (other than to say they must include a sample of 800 likely primary voters and be conducted by pollsters with no direct ties to a candidate), but is simply telling candidates who ask whether they’ve made the grade. And the RNC continues to insist that debaters sign a “loyalty pledge” to support the ultimate nominee, a requirement some seem to be taking with a grain of salt.

Here’s where we are on debate qualification as the midnight September 25 deadline approaches:


Candidates Who Qualified and Will Participate

Six of the eight candidates who were in the first debate have clearly qualified for the second and will be on the stage at the Reagan Library: Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, and Chris Christie.

And it looks like Doug Burgum has qualified at the last minute thanks to one dubious national poll from Trafalgar Group and a dubious New Hampshire poll from Insider Advantage, unless the RNC objects to the data for some reason.


Candidates Who Could Qualify But Won’t Be There

Front-runner Donald Trump instantly met the donor and polling requirements for the debate, though he has yet to sign a loyalty pledge. But his campaign has confirmed he will skip the second debate just as he did the first. And as he did with his Tucker Carlson debate on August 23, Trump is planning some counterprogramming: a speech in Detroit to “over 500 workers, with his campaign planning to fill the room with plumbers, pipe-fitters, electricians, as well as autoworkers,” according to the New York Times.


Candidates Who Probably Won’t Qualify

Asa Hutchinson, who participated in the August debate, is currently on the outside looking in. He has just qualifying national poll, and hasn’t met the donor requirement either.

None of the candidates who failed to make the cut for the first debate look like prospects to get into the second. One candidate, Miami mayor Francis Suarez, has dropped out. Another, Will Hurd, has categorically refused to sing the loyalty pledge. And while another, Perry Johnson, has met the donor requirement, he is all but invisible in the polls.

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Second GOP Debate: Who’s In, Who’s Out, Who’s Boycotting