The first GOP debate of the 2024 presidential race is next month, and it’s still unclear which candidates will make the stage. Recent polling and fundraising numbers provide a mixed bag of news for several of Donald Trump’s critics who are angling to confront the former president in Milwaukee. Former Vice President Mike Pence, despite polling in a solid 4th place in the first Republican National Committee-approved poll, posted anemic fundraising numbers on Friday that question whether he’ll be able to qualify.
A Morning Consult poll released Tuesday—the first to officially meet the fairly stringent standards set by the RNC— showed eight candidates meeting the RNC’s 1% threshold, including former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (3%) and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (1%). Both Christie and Hutchinson have both been vocal critics of Trump, so their presence in Milwaukee would likely have a significant effect on the tenor of the debate.
Only Trump and Ron DeSantis reached double digits, with the former president reaching 57% and the Florida Governor notching 17%. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (8%), Pence (7%), former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley (3%), and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott (3%), rounded out the qualifying pack.
The candidates who failed to meet the 1% threshold in the Morning Consult poll were North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, and former Texas GOP Rep representative Will Hurd.
By August 21—two days before the debate is set to take place—candidates must boast over 40,000 unique donors with at least 200 donors in 20 unique states, in addition to polling over 1% in three qualifying national polls (or two national and one early nominating state poll).
For some of the candidates, meeting the fundraising standard has been more of a challenge. Last week, Hutchinson said he only had about 5,000 individual donors. On Friday, he told “CNN This Morning” that he believes he will eventually reach the threshold. “It’s just a question of how quickly we can get there, but we want to be on that debate stage,” he said.
Pence has also failed to meet the donor requirement. “You bet we’ll be on that debate stage. We’re working every day to get to that threshold,” he told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Tuesday. “I’m sure we’re going to be there.” On Friday, multiple outlets reported that Pence had raised a measly $1.2 million for his campaign. He has spent little on online advertising—by one measure, one-fortieth of what Ramaswamy has spent—but his campaign said Friday that it was planning on investing in a direct mail campaign to try and juice its donor numbers.
Other flagging candidates have gone with a more unorthodox approach. Burgum has pioneered a questionably legal scheme of offering $20 gift cards for $1 donations, while a Suarez Super PAC is giving small donors a chance to win a year of college tuition. Both are still below the 40,000 mark.
Christie, who previously struggled to solicit small donations, announced last week that he’d met the threshold. “I am glad to be able to tell people tonight, Anderson, that last night we went past 40,000 unique donors in just 35 days,” Christie told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday.
Still, the major question haunting the debate is whether the former president, who now faces two federal indictments, will even show up. Last week, Trump campaign advisor Jason Miller said Trump is “unlikely” to participate. “It really wouldn’t make much sense for him to go and debate right now with a bunch of folks who are down at three, four and five percent,” Miller said.