New GOP debate criteria places several candidates in September’s hot seat

The RNC is raising its September debate criteria — a move that could leave several candidates on track to make the first debate in danger.

The Republican National Committee has raised the qualification bar for its second presidential discussion in September. This could put several candidates who were on track to attend the first debate at risk of missing the second.

Seven candidates have already been punched into the first debate. A few candidates are still trying to get through the last weeks of the showdown on August 23.

According to NBC News, a source familiar with the plans of the party confirmed that the new criteria for the debate in September will increase the fundraising threshold for each candidate, from 40,000 to 50,000 unique donors. Candidates will also need fewer polls to meet the criteria for the September debate, but they must still reach 3%.

This is where some candidates may have trouble. Hitting 3% either in two national surveys after August 1 or one national survey plus two different early voting states will be a greater boost than the mark required in the August debate criteria .

Candidates must also pledge their support to the eventual GOP nominee, and meet other technical criteria. Here is how the GOP primaries look in terms of qualifying candidates for the debates scheduled in September.

Who is likely to appear on stage?

The new thresholds for polling and debates should be a breeze for the former president Donald Trump. He has been at the top of every high-quality, recent poll on the GOP nomination field, and had about 400,000 online donors by June (according to an NBC News’ analysis).

Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis shouldn’t have any problems either. He is comfortably in the second spot, with polls in the double-digits. And he has raised more money this year from donors than any other non-Trump GOP candidates.

The same goes for former U.N. official Vivek Ramaswamy and businessman Vivek. Nikki Haley, the Ambassador of South Carolina and Tim Scott, the Senator from South Carolina are both in this category. All three were at or above the 3% threshold in almost every poll that qualified, and they each announced reaching the 40,000 mark weeks ago.

While former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s polling has been less consistent than the others. However, he appears to have met the RNC technical criteria by reaching 3% in several recent polls. Christie is likely to reach the new threshold for polling unless something occurs at the first debate which reduces his support. After his campaign launch in June, he also passed the threshold of 40,000 votes relatively quickly.

Whose perspective is less clear than yours?

All bets are out after those candidates. The Republican candidates will have 48 hours to reach all of the criteria before the second debate. This gives those who failed to make it to the first round a little over a month to get their act together.

Mike Pence, the former vice president, almost always hits 3% or more in polls that qualify him for the debate stage. He won’t have to worry about polling requirements. While he hasn’t yet reached the 40,000 donor mark, his campaign announced this week that he had exceeded 30,000 donors and was on average averaging over 1,000 new donors per day. So he is expected to appear at the debate in August.

If Pence keeps this pace and his campaign embraces the spotlight that the recent Trump indictment has brought to him, he will reach 50,000 donors weeks before the debate on September.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is an interesting case. He reached the threshold of donors by self-funding his campaign , which gave donors $20 gift cards in exchange for just $1.

Burgum’s problem is that he never exceeds 1% nationally in polling. After an ad spending blitz, Burgum is doing better at the state level.

Burgum’s chances of making the second debate will depend on several factors. These include: the number of pollsters who release state-level polls with large enough sample sizes to meet RNC polling criteria; whether Burgum can raise his profile in the first debate; and whether he is willing to continue spending at a high rate to increase his national numbers, as he must hit at least 3% nationally.


Who is facing an uphill battle and why?

All the candidates who are still (at best), long-shots to make it to the first debate will have a difficult time meeting the criteria for the next one.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s poll numbers have not exceeded 1%, which is the RNC’s criteria for selecting the candidates for the first debate. He said this week that he is about halfway towards meeting the 40,000 donor threshold. This casts doubt on his ability to raise enough money to get him into the first debate and even the second.

Other commentators, such as conservative Larry Elder, former Texas Rep. Will Hurd, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez do not seem to have reached the threshold of donors for the first discussion and register in polls less consistently than Hutchinson.

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