More Republican presidential candidates are starting to come to the realization that the party’s debate season is effectively over amid news that several have not committed to attending a fifth event scheduled for next month.
Axios reports that the fifth debate — the first to not be sponsored by the Republican National Committee — is failing to lock down commitments from some of the party’s remaining top contenders who aren’t named President Donald Trump. Only Ron DeSantis has committed to attending the January 10th, 2024 event while others in the running for second place, including Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, have yet to sign on or qualify.
Chris Christie, who barely qualified for the fourth debate, would effectively be shut out by new requirements laid down by CNN, which will host the fifth should it happen. Candidates are required to poll at 10% or higher in three national or Iowa polls to qualify for the debate, and at least one poll must be from Iowa. Christie, who has effectively ceded Iowa in favor of a make-or-break performance in New Hampshire, is polling at less than three percent nationally.
Ramaswamy, meanwhile, has only garnered five percent in the latest Iowa polls, leaving Haley with the prospect of a heads-up debate with DeSantis, a prospect that allies say she isn’t thrilled about. Instead, she has joined the Florida governor in harping on the importance of President Trump showing up to debate his also-ran rivals.
“When it comes to President Trump as well, I think he’s going to have to get on a debate stage here in Iowa because you’re fighting for Iowans’ votes. I think he’s got to sit there and do the groundwork,” Haley told a local Iowa news station. “You can’t have an election and not appear on a debate stage in front of the people who are going to be voting for you,” she argued.
Referencing the most recent debate, a spokesperson for DeSantis argued that Haley is more concerned about taking on her rival than getting President Trump on stage.
“After that loss, it is no wonder why Haley has failed to confirm she will join Ron DeSantis on the debate stage in Iowa and New Hampshire next month,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Bryan Griffin.
A spokeswoman for Haley stressed the importance of getting President Trump to appear at least once on stage before the end of the debate season.
“Since the RNC pulled out of the debates, many new offers have come in. We look forward to debating in Iowa and continuing to show voters why Nikki is the best candidate to retire Joe Biden and save our country. That debate should include Donald Trump,” said Haley campaign spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas.
Asked for comment, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung replied to Axios, “There’s a CNN debate? Had no idea.”
President Trump for months has bragged to advisors that he is up by “too many points” to appear on stage with his rivals and instead has dispatched surrogates like Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake to trash the GOP field. When Haley went after him earlier this summer, a Trump staffer may have put a birdcage outside of her hotel room, a reference to the “birdbrain” moniker the president has used against her.