Seven GOP candidates to face off in second debate as Trump skips

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The Republican National Committee (RNC) has announced the lineup for the second GOP presidential debate, which will take place on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. Seven candidates have qualified for the prime-time event, while one has been left out. Former President Donald Trump, who leads the polls for the 2024 nomination, has decided to skip the debate.

DeSantis, Haley, Scott, Ramaswamy, Pence, Christie and Burgum make the cut

The RNC has raised the bar for the second debate, requiring candidates to have at least 5% support in an average of five national or early-state polls, or to have raised at least $10 million in the third quarter of 2023. Based on these criteria, the following candidates have made the cut:

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seen as Trump’s heir apparent and has been praised for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in his state.
  • Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations and has tried to balance her loyalty to the former president with her own moderate views.
  • South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who is the only Black Republican in the Senate and delivered the GOP response to President Joe Biden’s first address to Congress in April.
  • Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who is the founder and CEO of biotech company Roivant Sciences and has been a vocal critic of corporate wokeism and cancel culture.

Seven GOP candidates to face

  • Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has been trying to mend his relationship with Trump and his supporters after certifying Biden’s victory on January 6, 2023.
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is a close friend of Trump and has been a fierce defender of his policies, but also a harsh critic of his conduct after the 2020 election.
  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who is a former software executive and a newcomer to national politics, but has touted his record of economic growth and innovation in his state.

Hutchinson misses the mark

The only candidate who participated in the first GOP debate on August 23, 2023, but failed to qualify for the second one is former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Hutchinson, who is a moderate Republican and a former chairman of the National Governors Association, has been at odds with Trump and his allies over issues such as mask mandates, vaccine requirements and election integrity. He has also faced backlash from his own party in Arkansas, where the state legislature overrode his veto of a bill that bans gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors.

Trump snubs the debate

The elephant in the room for the second GOP debate is the absence of Trump, who has been dominating the polls and the media attention for the 2024 race. Trump, who has not officially announced his candidacy, has said that he does not want to participate in any debates that are sponsored by the “fake news media” and that he prefers to hold his own rallies instead. He has also claimed that the RNC is “rigging” the debates to favor his opponents and that he will only debate the Democratic nominee in the general election.

Trump’s decision to skip the debate has drawn mixed reactions from the other GOP candidates. Some, such as DeSantis and Haley, have expressed their respect and gratitude for Trump’s leadership and said that they hope he will join them in the future. Others, such as Christie and Ramaswamy, have challenged Trump to face them on the stage and defend his record and vision. And others, such as Scott and Burgum, have tried to focus on their own agendas and avoid mentioning Trump altogether.

The second GOP debate will be hosted by CNN and moderated by Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Abby Phillip. It will air live from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 27, 2023.

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