Seven GOP presidential candidates have qualified for Wednesday night’s debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson did not make the stage after he failed to meet the polling and fundraising criteria set by the Republican National Committee.
The RNC is raising the threshold required to qualify for each successive debate. To make the Simi Valley stage, candidates had to prove that they had at least 50,000 unique donors to their campaigns, and they had to register at least 3 percent in two national polls or 3 percent in one national poll and two polls from separate early-nominating states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Late Monday night, the committee announced the seven participants: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, former vice president Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.).
Former president Donald Trump, who has maintained a lead of about 40 points over his closest challenger, is once again opting not to participate. Instead he will be wooing working-class voters in Michigan at a time when members of the United Auto Workers are protesting their contract with the nation’s largest car manufacturers.
The former president hopes his prime-time speech will serve as counter programming that draws attention away from his rivals in California. Trump, who is eager to signal that the fight for the Republican nomination is all but over, will visit Michigan a day after President Biden is slated to walk the picket line in Detroit — a presidential first.
Hutchinson’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But both Hutchinson and Burgum had criticized the RNC’s criteria as being too restrictive.
Burgum had argued that the RNC’s criteria was unfair to candidates who had less name recognition, and he had called the national polling requirement a “goofy clubhouse rule.” Funding his campaign in part with his own personal wealth, Burgum had also vowed to stay in the race regardless of whether he qualified for the second debate.
Hutchinson has accused the RNC of trying to shrink the field of candidates “very quickly and artificially.” But he also said that he would think carefully about whether he would stay in the race if missed a debate.
In a statement Monday night, Hutchinson said he would continue to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming weeks. He accused “the RNC and the media” of trying to reduce the number of candidates, but said his goal is to increase his polling numbers to 4 percent in an early state before Thanksgiving.
“If that goal is met, then I remain competitive and in contention for either caucus day or primary day,” Hutchinson said.
He added that he would hold a news conference in Detroit on Wednesday to “highlight [Trump’s] false promises to blue collar and union workers in Michigan and across America.”