MILWAUKEE — The first debate for the Republican nomination for president will be held in Milwaukee in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.
The Republican National Committee officially announced the 8 candidates who will be participating. The deadline was 8 p.m. Monday.
The 8 candidates include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Former President Donald Trump, who qualified for the debate, instead plans to skip the event and opt for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
A host of issues are at stake, including inflation and the economy, manufacturing and globalization, tensions with Russia and China, migration and the border to the south, mass shootings and gun purchasing laws, and more. There is also the issue of the former president, Trump, being under indictment in four cases in connection to his and others' alleged efforts to influence and undermine the presidential election process in 2020/2021.
- GOP DEBATE GUIDE: Republican debate in Milwaukee: What to know as GOP presidential contenders clash in 1st debate
The debate, hosted at Fiserv Forum at 111 Vel Phillips Ave., is set to be about two hours long, beginning at 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. ET). Fiserv Forum is also the location of the Republican National Convention scheduled for July 15-18, 2024.
Here's what to know about each of the 8 candidates:
The Florida governor has long been seen as Trump's top rival, finishing a distant second to him in a series of polls in early-voting states, as well as national polls, and raising an impressive amount of money.
But DeSantis' campaign has struggled in recent weeks to live up to the sky-high expectations that awaited him when he entered the race. He let go of more than one-third of his staff as federal filings showed his campaign was burning through cash at an unsustainable rate.
If Trump is absent, DeSantis may be the top target on stage at the debate.
The South Carolina senator has been looking for a breakout moment. The first debate could be his chance.
A prolific fundraiser, Scott enters the summer with $21 million cash on hand.
In one debate-approved poll in Iowa, Scott joined Trump and DeSantis in reaching double digits. The senator has focused much of his campaign resources on the leadoff GOP voting state, which is dominated by white evangelical voters.
She has blitzed early-voting states with campaign events, walking crowds through her electoral successes ousting a longtime incumbent South Carolina lawmaker, then becoming the state's first woman and first minority governor. Also serving as Trump's U.N. ambassador for about two years, Haley frequently cites her international experience, arguing about the threat China poses to the United States.
The only woman in the GOP race, Haley has said transgender students competing in sports is “the women’s issue of our time” and has drawn praise from a leading anti-abortion group, which called her “uniquely gifted at communicating from a pro-life woman’s perspective.”
Bringing in $15.6 million since the start of her campaign, Haley's campaign says she has “well over 40,000 unique donors" and has satisfied the debate polling requirements.
The biotech entrepreneur and author of “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam” is an audience favorite at multicandidate events and has polled well despite not being nationally known when he entered the race.
Ramaswamy's campaign says he met the donor threshold earlier this year. He recently rolled out “Vivek's Kitchen Cabinet" to boost his donor numbers even more, by letting fundraisers keep 10% of what they bring in for his campaign.
The former New Jersey governor opened his campaign by portraying himself as the only candidate ready to take on Trump. Christie called on the former president to “show up at the debates and defend his record.”
Christie will be on that stage, even if Trump isn't, telling CNN this month that he surpassed “40,000 unique donors in just 35 days.” He also has met the polling requirements.
Burgum, a wealthy former software entrepreneur now in his second term as North Dakota’s governor, has been using his fortune to boost his campaign.
He announced a program this month to give away $20 gift cards — “Biden Relief Cards,” as a critique of President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy — to as many as 50,000 people in exchange for $1 donations. Critics have questioned whether the offer violated campaign finance law.
Within about a week of launching that effort, Burgum announced he had surpassed the donor threshold. Ad blitzes in the early-voting states also helped him meet the polling requirements.
Trump’s vice president had met the polling threshold but struggled to amass a sufficient number of donors, raising the possibility he might not qualify for the first debate.
But on Aug. 8, Pence's campaign announced that it had crossed the 40,000 donor threshold, and also that he had become the first candidate to formally submit his donor count to the RNC for verification.
Pence and his advisers had long expressed confidence he would make it. His campaign said he had met the donor mark without “schemes, giveaways, or gimmicks used by other campaigns.”
Asa Hutchinson served as the 46th governor of Arkansas from 2015 to 2023. He previously served as a U.S. Congressman and in two roles for the George W. Bush administration. He was the nation's youngest U.S. Attorney at the age of 31.
On Sunday, Hutchinson said he qualified for the debate.
“I’m pleased to announce that we have met all the criteria that the RNC set to be on the debate stage. We’ve met the polling criteria and now we’ve met the 40,000 individual donor criteria,” Hutchinson told CNN.
He said he submitted 42,000 individual donors to the Republican National Committee.