The debate stage will undoubtedly be less crowded on Wednesday evening at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, with just five Republican hopefuls seeking the GOP nomination taking part.
While former President Donald Trump has once again snubbed debate organizers and will be absent, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy qualified and will be in attendance.
This is down from the seven who took part in the second debate and the eight from the first one.
This could be a make-or-break moment for all of the respective campaigns as there are just over two months until the Iowa caucuses on January 15, which serves as the first test of voter attitudes.
To qualify for the debate, the hopefuls needed at least four percent support in two national polls, or four percent in one national poll as well as two polls from four of the early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. All the polls used for qualification must have been approved by the Republican National Committee (RNC).
The candidates also needed to have at least 70,000 unique donors, while they had to sign an RNC pledge promising to support the eventual GOP nominee.
Last month, former Vice President Mike Pence suspended his campaign as it looked like he would fail to qualify.
Will it Be Haley’s Moment?
Wednesday night’s debate could be a chance for Haley to truly break out. The former Palmetto State governor and former ambassador to the UN has seen a surge in popularity in recent weeks, boosted by her performance in the two prior debates.
On Tuesday, her campaign released a new video that criticized DeSantis on his energy policy – noting that he is against fracking and drilling. The Florida governor has responded that the allegations are “not true.”
However, in Jan. 2019, DeSantis signed an executive order on his second day in office that said his office would “take necessary actions to adamantly oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.”
An October NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of Iowa voters showed that DeSantis and Haley were tied for second at 16 percent – but still way down from Trump, who had 43 percent support. The two candidates have increasingly escalated their attacks against each other to be the top alternative to the former president.
DeSantis Secured Key Endorsement
Wednesday’s debate will come just days after DeSantis received an endorsement from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who said that the Florida governor is the best chance for a Republican win in the 2024 general election –and suggested Trump can’t deliver a victory.
“I believe he can’t win, and I believe that Ron can,” Reynolds said in a joint NBC News interview with DeSantis. “And that’s a big reason I got behind him.”
The second term Reynolds had previously said she would stay neutral in the primary race but went on to appear with DeSantis at least eight times since he threw his hat into the proverbial ring in late May.
Trump has already fired back – at both DeSantis and Reynolds.
“Why would anybody endorse Ron DeSanctimonious, who is like a wounded bird falling from the sky? His Poll numbers are terrible, he is totally against Ethanol, and fought to destroy Social Security and Medicare,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social messaging app on Monday evening. “Well, the ‘Nation’s most unpopular governor,’ Kim Reynolds of Iowa, just endorsed him. What’s that all about?”
It is not the first time the former president has called out the two governors.
“I opened up the Governor position for Kim Reynolds, & when she fell behind, I ENDORSED her, did big Rallies, & she won,” Trump wrote on his social media platform in July. “Now, she wants to remain ‘NEUTRAL.’ I don’t invite her to events! DeSanctus down 45 points!”
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.