Washington, DC – The second Republican debate of the 2024 presidential race is set to give rivals of former President Donald Trump a platform to chip away at his massive lead among primary voters — but the question remains whether they can make a dent in his popularity.
Wednesday night’s event is set to feature some of the heavy hitters in the Republican Party, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence.
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However, the first debate in August did not appear to significantly alter the Republican field. Public opinion polls continue to show Trump in first place, with DeSantis a distant second.
Last time around, though, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy delivered a breakout performance, as he invited attacks from opponents and capitalised on the event’s format to gain more air time for rebuttals. But he remains in third place, far from mounting a serious challenge against Trump.
Now, the clock is ticking for the former president’s rivals to make an impression on voters before the primary process kicks off in Iowa in January.
With millions of people expected to tune in to Wednesday’s debate, the event represents a golden opportunity for candidates to woo would-be supporters.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of the debate.
Will Trump be there?
No. The former president, who is facing four sets of criminal charges, will skip the second debate, as he did with the first one.
Instead, Trump will travel to Michigan and address autoworkers pushing for better pay and working conditions. Democratic President Joe Biden also spoke to striking union members in the state on Tuesday.
Trump is leading the Republican field by more than 40 percentage points, according to some public opinion polls. He has previously argued that he had no need to debate his primary rivals, as voters already know his record as president — and a debate would only give his critics a stage on which to bash him.
All eight candidates who participated in the last debate said they would support Trump if he wins the nomination, even if he is convicted of a crime before the 2024 elections.
When and where is the debate?
The debate will take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, north of Los Angeles, California. It will start at 6pm local time (9pm Eastern time/01:00 GMT). The event is expected to last for two hours.
“The Republican Party is united around one common goal — Beating Biden — and there is no better place to showcase our conservative vision for the future than the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement earlier this week.
Former President Reagan is a revered figure in US conservative circles.
Where can it be watched?
Fox Business Network is hosting the debate, which will also air on the main Fox News channel. The Spanish channel Univision will also broadcast the event, and the online platform Rumble will livestream it.
Who will attend the debate?
Seven candidates qualified for the debate:
- Florida Governor DeSantis
- Entrepreneur Ramaswamy
- Former Vice President Pence
- Former United Nations envoy Nikki Haley
- Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
- Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina
- North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum
Who failed to qualify for the debate?
While Trump is choosing not to attend the event, other Republican presidential hopefuls fell short of the qualifications needed to appear on the debate stage.
Ex-Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson — an outspoken opponent of the former president — is the only candidate who qualified for the first debate but failed to meet the criteria for the second.
Businessman Perry Johnson, former Congressman William Hurd and talk radio host Larry Elder also did not make the cut.
What were the requirements to attend the debate?
To qualify for the debate, candidates had to amass at least 50,000 unique donors at least 48 hours before the event.
They also needed to meet certain polling requirements, including having 3 percent support in at least one credible national poll. Moreover, debate participants had to sign a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee in the general elections in November 2024 to “beat Biden”.
What are some of the key issues to look out for?
- Many of the leading candidates have thus far avoided criticising Trump. But with their poll numbers stagnating, will they take a more aggressive stance towards the former president?
- Once considered a serious contender against Trump, DeSantis has struggled since entering the race. His debate performance could determine whether his popularity continues to slide.
- Continued aid to war-torn Ukraine has been a sticking point among Republicans in this month’s budget negotiations. Debate participants may be asked to weigh in.
- With both Biden and Trump visiting the autoworkers’ strike this week, labour rights are set to be in the spotlight on the debate stage as well.
When is the next debate?
The third Republican debate will be held in Miami, Florida, on November 8. The requirements to participate will be even stricter in an effort to further shrink the number of contenders on the stage.