COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The field of candidates onstage for the fourth Republican presidential debate will be the smallest yet.
Four hopefuls will participate in Wednesday night’s debate at the Moody Music Hall at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, according to the Republican National Committee.
To qualify for the fourth debate, candidates needed at least 6% support in two national polls or 6% in one national poll as well as two polls from four of the early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. All the polls used for qualification must have been approved by the RNC.
The White House hopefuls also needed at least 80,000 unique donors, with at least 200 of those coming from 20 states or territories. They also had to sign an RNC pledge promising to support the party’s eventual nominee.
A look at where the candidates stand:
Initially seen as the top rival for Donald Trump, DeSantis has been locked in a battle for a distant second place to the front-runner, as well as wading through challenges within his operation.
Over the weekend, several staffers parted ways with the super PAC that has been sustaining much of DeSantis’ early-state efforts. That’s been particularly true in Iowa, where DeSantis shifted some of his Florida-based campaign staff and where he recently completed a goal of holding events in all 99 counties.
But the state is also ground zero for DeSantis’ battle with Trump, who said as both campaigned in Iowa over the weekend that the Florida governor’s campaign was falling “like a very seriously wounded bird.”
Benefiting from increased attention — as well as the campaign’s shift toward foreign policy after Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attack on Israel — Haley is angling to keep that trend going with the fourth debate.
There could be another opportunity for Haley to mix it up with DeSantis. For weeks the campaigns have been trading escalated barbs, like Haley’s recent comparison that his effort was a “dumpster fire” contrasted with hers.
The political newcomer and youngest GOP hopeful has been a debate-stage target of attacks on his lack of experience. While the jabs have helped boost Ramaswamy’s campaign coffers and his name ID in the broad Republican field, he’s struggled to get much traction even as he’s filled his campaign calendar with scores of events, particularly across Iowa.
Ramaswamy has had fiery debate-night clashes with Haley, and there could be more Wednesday night. During the last debate, Haley called the entrepreneur “scum” after he invoked Haley’s daughter during a critique of TikTok.
The 2024 race’s most vocal critic of Trump, Christie has cast himself as the only Republican willing to take him on directly. Without Trump at the debates, Christie has been left without his intended target but has brought him up nonetheless.
In September, Christie looked directly into the camera and declared that if Trump keeps skipping debates, he would deserve a new nickname: “Donald Duck.”
Who decided not to participate (again)
The current GOP front-runner is skipping his fourth straight debate. Instead of going to Alabama — or holding his own counterprogramming event, as he has done for past debates — Trump is holding a closed-door campaign fundraiser in Florida.
Trump has said he’s forgoing the primary debates because he does not want to elevate his lower-polling opponents by being onstage with them. He and his campaign have also called on the RNC to cancel the remainder of the debates and instead focus on backing him against President Joe Biden.
Who qualified for previous debates but not this one
The former two-term Arkansas governor participated in the first debate but has failed to qualify for subsequent ones. After missing out on the second debate, he said his goal was to increase his polling numbers to 4% in an early state before Thanksgiving.
That didn’t happen, but Hutchinson has said there should not be a rush for candidates to drop out, arguing that voters should have plenty of choices when votes start in Iowa.
Who has dropped out since the last debate
Four days after barely qualifying for the third debate last month, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina abruptly shuttered his bid, saying that voters “have been really clear that they’re telling me, ‘Not now, Tim.’”
On Monday, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum — who didn’t qualify for the third debate and wasn’t on track for the fourth — suspended his campaign, condemning “the RNC’s clubhouse debate requirements” that he argued “are nationalizing the primary process.”