By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023
PresidentTonight: GOP Debate — The first GOP presidential forum will be held tonight in Milwaukee, and it appears the Republican National Committee’s debate requirement criteria failed to meet its principal intended goal.
The chief reasons for instituting the debate qualification menu:
- Reaching at least one percent support in a minimum of three post-July 1st polls with 800 or more respondents
- Having 40,000 financial donors
- Signing a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee …
… among other party related items, became easier to obtain than initially anticipated. The purpose of having requirements was to keep most minor candidates out, thus limiting the participants to a small number of major candidates.
At this time, it appears at least eight candidates will be on stage Wednesday night. The national leader, former President Donald Trump, is saying he won’t attend and refuses to sign the loyalty pledge that irrespectively should eliminate him. Without Trump among the participants, however, the debate will lose much of its luster, not to mention ratings for host Fox News.
The eight who apparently have earned a podium spot are:
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)
- Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
- Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND)
- Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy
- Former Vice President Mike Pence
- Ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
- Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
- Ex-Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Businessman Perry Johnson has also reportedly eclipsed the financial requirement but failed on the polling qualification.
Meeting the financial requirement became easier when Gov. Burgum, and then several others, ran an end-run around the requirement by concocting the idea of paying for $1 contributions and receiving a $20 gift card in exchange. The move was able to qualify several candidates who initially appeared incapable of pulling together such a donor portfolio within a limited time frame.
We are now seeing definitive movement in polling responses. While Trump continues to lead in all polls by substantial margins, the last five national polls have all found Ramaswamy finishing in either third or even second place in national Republican presidential polling. Simultaneously, Gov. DeSantis has lost considerable polling support.
The Fox News Poll (Aug. 11-14; 1,002 registered US voters; live interview), Quinnipiac University’s national survey (Aug. 11-14; 1,632 self-identified US registered voters; 681 Republican and Republican leaning voters; 666 Democratic and Democratic leaning primary voters; live interview), and Insider Advantage (Aug. 19-20; 750 likely US Republican primary voters; live interview) each project Ramaswamy as placing third behind Trump (Fox, 53 percent; Q-Poll, 57 percent; Insider, 51 percent) and Gov. DeSantis (Fox, 16 percent; Q-Poll, 18 percent; Insider, 10 percent).
The RMG Research and Emerson College surveys find Ramaswamy doing even better. In RMG’s latest poll (Aug. 11-14; 1,000 US registered voters; 229 likely Republican primary voters), though with a very small national GOP sample, Ramaswamy moves into second place with 13 percent compared to Gov. DeSantis’ eight percent. Trump tops the RMG poll with a whopping 60 percent support figure.
The Emerson College Poll (Aug. 16-17; 1,000 registered US voters; multiple sampling techniques), again found the self-identified Republicans favoring Trump who posted 56 percent support in this poll, while DeSantis and Ramaswamy each post 10 percent support figures. When compared to Emerson’s June national poll, Gov. DeSantis has dropped 11 percentage points and Ramaswamy has gained eight.
The polling bump that Ramaswamy demonstrates suggest that he may leave the first debate attracting even more support since he will have a more prominent podium position and, without Trump in the mix, has the opportunity to establish himself as the most talked-about candidate in the post-debate analysis. Conversely, with his stronger recent polling performance, the pressure to become a star participant tonight is significant.