Republicans to square off in 1st debate, but Trump will not be there

Republicans to square off in 1st debate, but Trump will not be there

At least 7 candidates to take part in showdown that will inaugurate new, more heated phase in 2024 White House race

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) - Republican presidential hopefuls are slated to take to the debate stage for the first time Wednesday evening as they seek to prove their conservative bona fides in front of a national audience.

The showdown will inaugurate a new, more heated phase, in the 2024 White House race.

At least seven candidates will take part in the showdown hosted by Fox News in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but ex-US President Donald Trump will not be among the crowded field. He is expected to instead take part in an interview with ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson that will be released during or around the time of the debate.

Trump has said he does not see a need to attend the debate due to his large lead in early polling and has refused to sign a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee regardless of who it ultimately is, a requirement imposed by the Republican National Committee (RNC) for all participants.

A compilation of national polls put together by the RealClearPolitics website shows Trump holding a commanding lead against all of his Republican challengers, holding over 55% of support among all candidates. His closest challenger remains Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis followed by former pharmaceutical executive Vivek Ramaswamy.

But neither candidate has anywhere near as large a base of support as Trump.

DeSantis and Ramaswamy will be joined at Wednesday's debate by former Vice President Mike Pence, ex-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Tim Scott, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

Candidates had to meet a series of criteria established by the RNC to participate in the debate, including signing the loyalty pledge, having at least 40,000 individual campaign donors, and receiving at least 1% support in national polling, or polling in early voting states.

It is unclear if Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, businessman Perry Johnson and ex-Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson have met the criteria and will be allowed to join their fellow Republicans on the debate stage Wednesday.

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