RNC finalizes 8 candidates for first GOP debate with Trump notably absent

The Republican National Committee said Monday night that eight candidates will participate in its first primary debate. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI
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Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The Republican National Committee confirmed Monday night that eight candidates will participate in the first GOP 2024 presidential primary debate, with former President Donald Trump being notably absent from the roster.

Trump, the very early front runner to win the Republican nomination for the 2024 general election, announced earlier this week that he would not participate in the debate scheduled for Wednesday in Milwaukee, citing polling numbers that put him 46 points ahead of his nearest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis, meanwhile, was among the eight named Monday night in the RNC announcement, and will seek to narrow the gap between himself and Trump on Wednesday as his campaign, centered on culture-war issues, has limped off the starting line, hobbled from the get-go with its failed Twitter launch in late May.

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, was also to participate in the debate along with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina rounded out the eight candidates for the first debate.

"The RNC is excited to showcase our diverse candidate field and the conservative vision to beat [President] Joe Biden on the debate stage Wednesday night," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Monday night in a statement.

To qualify, candidates had to secure a minimum of 40,000 unique donors and poll a minimum of 1% in three national polls or a combination of early state and national polls.

Pence was seemingly the last of the eight candidates to reach the minimum requirement, doing so Aug. 7.

Businessman Perry Johnson, who has thrown his hat into the Republican ring, had said days earlier that his campaign had qualified for the debate.

But after his name was left off the roster for Milwaukee, he took to the social media platform formerly known as Twitter to accuse the selection process of being "corrupt."

"Our campaign hit every metric put forward by the RNC and we have qualified for the debate. We'll be in Milwaukee Wednesday and will have more to say tomorrow," he said on X.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez on Friday had also announced that he had qualified for the first-round debate. He has yet to issue a comment after his name was not included among those with tickets punched for Milwaukee.

The Fox News Republican Debate will air 9 p.m. EDT on Fox News and streamed online via Rumble.