The Republican National Committee announced Monday that five presidential candidates have met the criteria to participate in Wednesday’s third primary debate in Miami.
They are former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.
Missing from the debate stage will be North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who qualified for the previous two debates, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who participated in the first debate but did not make the stage for the second one.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who qualified for the first two debates, dropped out of the Republican primary last month.
“We are looking forward to our third debate in Miami, a welcome opportunity for our candidates to showcase our winning conservative agenda to the American people,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a press release.
To qualify for the third debate, candidates had to register 4% in either two national polls or one national poll and two polls from separate early-voting states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina). Candidates also had to have reached at least 70,000 unique donors, with at least 200 donors in 20 states or territories.
Of the five candidates who’ve made the Miami stage, the stakes are particularly high for Haley and DeSantis. Haley has enjoyed a significant but not outsize burst of support in recent polling, in part thanks to previous debate performances. In a memo from campaign manager Betsy Ankney, the Haley campaign argues that the former governor is increasingly the “top Trump alternative” in three of the four early primary states.
For DeSantis, the situation is different but no less important. The Florida governor, who entered the race by touting himself as someone who could appeal to both Trump supporters and anti-Trump GOP primary voters, has struggled to maintain his early positioning as the major Republican alternative to the former president. His performance in the first two debates was restrained. And as his position in the primary remained largely static, his campaign has moved more resources to Iowa in the hopes that a breakout performance in the upcoming debates and then a strong showing in the January caucuses would reignite some of the early excitement for the Florida governor in the leadup to his campaign launch.
Trump, the front-runner in this Republican primary, is skipping the debate – as he did the two previous ones in Milwaukee and Simi Valley, California. He will instead headline a South Florida rally as counterprogramming to the debate. Trump’s team has argued that there should be fewer debates.
Just a few days before the debate, it looked like Scott would just barely surpass the threshold to make the stage. In a memo ahead of the RNC confirming the lineup, Scott campaign manager Jennifer DeCasper predicted that the debate would devolve into a “slugfest” between Haley and DeSantis.
“She’ll attack him for the failing candidate that he is. He’ll attack her for being the moderate that she is,” DeCasper wrote, going on to argue that Scott was the candidate Democrats fear most because “the left knows a Tim Scott-led ticket would usher in a red wave that would not just flip the White House but also carry the House and Senate.”
The Miami debate will air at 8 p.m. ET on NBC News and will be livestreamed on Rumble. Other debate partners include Salem Radio Network and the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“We are especially honored to be the first political party to partner with a Jewish organization for a debate in our partnership with the Republican Jewish Coalition, and our candidates will reaffirm the Republican Party’s unwavering support of Israel and the Jewish community on the stage Wednesday night,” McDaniel said in the press release.
The fourth Republican debate has already been scheduled and will take place on December 6 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with higher polling and donor thresholds for candidates to make the stage.
This story has been updated with additional information.