Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson fell short of qualifying for the second GOP presidential debate this week, but the other seven candidates who were there for the first debate in August will be back onstage Wednesday in California.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., have all qualified for the second debate Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, according to a statement from the Republican National Committee.
That means those candidates met all three of the party’s qualifying criteria — a unique donor threshold, a minimum polling requirement and signed pledges that include supporting the party’s eventual nominee. Former President Donald Trump, who also skipped the first GOP debate, easily surpassed the first two requirements, according to NBC News analysis. But he has refused to sign the party pledges and therefore did not qualify.
Most of the candidates set to meet Wednesday passed each threshold easily, but Burgum did not notch all of his qualifying polls until the weekend before the debate.
That made Hutchinson the only candidate who participated in the party’s first debate last month who fell short of qualifying this time. A number of other GOP candidates — including former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, conservative commentator Larry Elder, Michigan businessman Perry Johnson and Ryan Binkley, a pastor and entrepreneur — didn’t qualify for either contest.
The main issue for Hutchinson — and the issue that almost blocked Burgum — was the polling threshold, which required candidates to hit a higher mark, in fewer polls, than the first debate’s criteria. Neither candidate could consistently hit 3% in national or state-level polling.
Missing out on the debate stage and the free publicity that comes with it proved costly before. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez dropped out of the presidential race days after failing to qualify for the first debate.
Hutchinson, one of the weaker fundraisers in the 2024 presidential field, recently told reporters in South Carolina he didn’t have a specific off-ramp in mind for his presidential race. In New Hampshire, he said that missing the debate would mean he’ll need to reflect on his campaign.
“I’ll look at it and make a decision,” Hutchinson said. “I’ll have to talk to donors, and I’ll have to talk to — look at the polling numbers that we have. So that decision will be made, but again, I expect to make it.”