Meet the Underdog Ready to Upend the Republican Debate

As the primary debate begins and the Fiserv Forum cameras go live, all eyes will be on entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. National polls show Ramaswamy and DeSantis both trailing behind Trump.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel expressed excitement over the array of candidates and their conservative vision to challenge Joe Biden. She acknowledged the efforts of debate committee Chairman Dave Bossie, Co-Chair Anne Hathaway, and partners Fox News, Young America’s Foundation, and Rumble for their role in launching the primary process, aiming to position the party and eventual nominee for success in the upcoming election.

Eight contenders have met the criteria set by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and are confirmed to participate in the inaugural Republican debate. The debate will include DeSantis (R-FL), Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), former Vice President Mike Pence, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND).

To secure a spot in the debate, candidates had to fulfill specific polling and donor requirements outlined by the RNC. These prerequisites mandated candidates to exhibit a minimum of 1% support across three reputable national polls or a combination of national and early voting state polls from July 1 to August 21. Additionally, candidates needed to amass financial contributions from at least 40,000 donors, with 200 of these donations originating from a minimum of 20 states.

Despite leading in polls and meeting all debate criteria, former President Donald Trump has declined the opportunity to participate. Citing the relentless attacks he has labeled as a “witch hunt.” Trump expressed his belief that the debate was unnecessary, given his strong standing in the polls. He conveyed this through a post on his Truth Social account, reiterating his commitment to “Make America Great Again.”

Governor DeSantis has encountered challenges in his campaign, failing to meet initial lofty expectations. A considerable portion of his campaign staff was let go, and financial disclosures revealed substantial spending reminiscent of a lavish shopping spree. Though he consistently polled second, his distance from Trump’s lead could make him a focal point in the debate. Ramaswamy is currently polling third. The debate may also offer Senator Tim Scott an opportunity to stand out, considering his substantial fundraising success.

Former Governor Nikki Haley, the sole female candidate, has made transgender student participation in sports a central issue. Her strong communication from a pro-life perspective has gained acknowledgment from a prominent pro-life group. Another contender, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, has gained popularity at multi-contender events and maintains a strong presence on social media platforms despite being relatively unknown before entering the race.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie launched his campaign by positioning himself as the primary candidate capable of challenging Trump. He directly challenged the former president, encouraging his participation in the debates to defend his record. Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota, an ex-software entrepreneur in his second term, predominantly financed his campaign. Notably, he offered small donors $20 gift cards to attain the required number of supporters.

Former Vice President Mike Pence secured the necessary donor count by August 8. Reports suggest he has undertaken multiple formal debate preparation sessions, with at least one involving a campaign aide who previously worked closely with Trump.