The first Republican debate of 2023 happens tonight. Here’s what to know

The inaugural Republican debate for the 2024 presidential race is poised to begin, featuring eight candidates who have satisfied the requirements set by the Republican National Committee. However, notably absent from the event is the prominent GOP frontrunner and former President, Donald Trump, who conveyed through social media his intention to forgo participation.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest city and a pivotal battleground state, serves as the backdrop for this debate. Wisconsin, which Trump successfully captured in 2016 but was reclaimed by President Biden in 2020, holds significant importance in the political landscape. Milwaukee will also host the 2024 Republican National Convention.

This initial debate arrives just shy of four months ahead of the Iowa caucus on January 15th – the initial contest in the primary season. A recent poll from CBS News, released on Sunday, reveals that despite facing four separate indictments, Trump has attained his most substantial lead thus far in the race.

Amongst potential Republican primary voters, Trump commands a commanding 62% lead, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis trailing far behind at 16% support. The remaining contenders register in the single digits in terms of support.

Who has qualified and what were the qualifications?

On the evening of Monday, the Republican National Committee (RNC) officially announced the qualification of several candidates for the debate. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina have all met the RNC’s criteria.

The RNC’s requirements mandated that candidates achieve a minimum of 1% support in multiple eligible polls, gather a donor base of at least 40,000 individuals, and commit to supporting the eventual GOP nominee while refraining from participation in debates not authorized by the party. This included the general election debates overseen by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Chris Christie, who was once a staunch supporter of Donald Trump but has since distanced himself, has previously expressed criticism of the RNC’s loyalty pledge. Donald Trump, for his part, has stated his refusal to sign it.

“Why should I put my signature on it?” Trump remarked during an interview on the conservative cable network Newsmax. He continued, “I can readily identify three or four individuals whom I wouldn’t endorse for the presidency. That alone presents an issue.”

Why is Trump skipping the debate?

Despite not formalizing his decision until Sunday, Donald Trump had been dropping hints that he wouldn’t partake in the debates. He elucidated his reasons on Truth Social during Sunday’s discourse.

Citing the recent CBS News poll, Trump highlighted his polling figures as “legendary” and consequently declared, “THUS, I WILL NOT BE ENGAGING IN THE DEBATES!”

In an interview that Trump recorded with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, he also disclosed on Truth Social that it would be broadcasted at approximately 9 p.m. Eastern Time. While the specific platform for airing remains uncertain, the possibility of the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) exists, as Carlson introduced a show on X shortly after his departure from Fox News.

What topics are expected to be discussed?

Earlier in the week, MacCallum shared with Fox News that her approach in the upcoming debate would involve asking candidates about their strategies for enhancing the nation. She expressed her aspiration for viewers to leave the Wednesday night debate with a heightened understanding of the candidates and, potentially, newfound interest in one or two of them.

MacCallum conveyed, “Our primary objective is to propel this process forward in a manner that’s enlightening, prompting individuals to feel more engaged come Thursday morning.”

In a conversation with TVNewser, MacCallum also disclosed her intentions to delve into subjects such as abortion and the United States’ involvement in Ukraine in light of Russia’s invasion.

Will the Democrats be holding debates?

Presently, the Democratic Party has no intentions of hosting any debates. It’s worth noting that no sitting president has engaged in a party debate since Gerald Ford in 1976. Ford notably stands as the sole individual to assume the presidency without having won a general election for either the presidency or vice presidency.

Within the current landscape, President Biden faces challenges from two Democrats: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson. It’s worth highlighting that neither of them possesses prior elected office experience and are not widely regarded as significant contenders.

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