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Seven Republicans are hoping for a second chance to prove they are better suited for the White House than Donald Trump as they prepare to take stage for another debate Wednesday evening in California.
Specifically, Ron DeSantis faces a decisive night in his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee.
Airing 9 p.m. on Fox Business, the second presidential debate is taking place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, where fireworks and furious exchanges are expected as the candidates make their case to be the next president.
Florida Governor DeSantis has slipped to as low as fifth place in some polls, and is expected to face attacks from his opponents as he tries to revive his challenge to frontrunner Trump.
Strategists tell DailyMail.com that DeSantis’ team is prepared for an onslaught of criticism at Wednesday’s debate, but insist he won’t stoop to the level of initiating attacks on those beside him on stage.
Trump is skipping the event – again – and will instead speak to autoworkers and members of the striking United Automobile Workers (UAW) union in Detroit at 8 p.m.
Eyes are also on Nikki Haley on the back of her surging poll numbers in recent weeks, and Vivek Ramaswamy, after stealing the spotlight during the first round in Milwaukee last month.
The other contenders need critical support, or they will face growing questions about their future in the race. DailyMail.com answers the key questions about tonight’s spectacle.
Who is debating?
Those on stage will be Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley; South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott; former Vice President Mike Pence; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
But with all candidates still polling so far behind Trump, many still view the debate as part of the race for second place.
The former president has repeatedly said the events are beneath him since no candidate can touch his polling levels.
Absent from the stage this time around will be former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who did not qualify for the second debate after narrowly meeting the polling and donor thresholds for the first debate last month.
He did manage to meet the qualifications in one national poll, but has not met the donor or state-level polling thresholds needed to debate.
Seven candidates met the Republican National Committee’s heightened qualifications to participate in the second primary debate. Above is how they will line up on the stage in California on Wednesday night
QUICK GUIDE FOR SECOND GOP DEBATE
Where: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California
When: Wednesday 27, 2023 at 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Who qualified: Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Chris Christie, Mike Pence and Doug Burgum
Hosts: Fox Business and Univision
Moderators: Fox News anchor Dana Perino, Fox Business host Stuart Varney and Univison’s Ilia Calderon
Where to watch: Fox Business Network, Fox News, Rumble, streaming platform Fox Nation, Univision (in Spanish), its streaming platform ViX and website UnivisionNoticias.com
Where will Trump be: Detroit, Michigan area, meeting with picketing auto union workers and delivering a speech
When and where is the debate?
The debate will kick-off at 9:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California and is hosted by Fox Business and Univision.
Fox News anchor Dana Perino and Fox Business host Stuart Varney will co-moderate along with Univision’s Ilia Calderon.
There are 750 seats in the Reagan Library for in-person debate spectators where the stage is set next to an old Air Force One. Additionally, there are multiple channels and streaming options for viewers to watch the debate.
With 600 reporters credentialed to cover the event on scene, the number of press to spectators nearly reaches a 1:1 ratio.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) released a statement in June stating that candidates who qualify for the debates will be placed on stage according to how well they poll, ‘with the highest polling candidates in the center.’
This means that DeSantis is taking center-stage, flanked by Ramaswamy and Haley. The next layer out will include Scott and Christie while Pence and Burgum will round out the stage at either ends of the line of podiums.
Some expect the two-hour event to be overshadowed by what many see as a preview of a hypothetical general election rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden as both head to Michigan this week.
Biden joined the picket line with striking auto union workers Tuesday – and Trump is holding his prime-time speech where auto workers are expected to be in attendance Wednesday during the debate.
Besides Hutchinson, the other contenders who didn’t make the cut are conservative radio host Larry Elder; Michigan businessman Perry Johnson; pastor and businessman Ryan Binkley; and former U.S. Rep. from Texas Will Hurd.
Miami Mayor Frances Suarez, who did not qualify for the first showdown, withdrew from the race between the first and second debates.
Despite skipping the debate, Trump will head to the Los Angeles suburb of Anaheim just two days later for a lunch banquet at the California Republican Party’s fall convention on Friday.
DeSantis will appear at the dinner banquet the same day, while an afternoon event will include remarks from Scott. Meanwhile, Ramaswamy will go to the convention on Saturday for a VIP reception and lunch banquet, according to an online schedule of events.
Trump calls debate ‘stupid’
Trump already set a precedent by skipping out on the first in Milwaukee, Wisconsin last month.
He instead sat-down for a wide-ranging interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, which started airing just five-minutes before the debate kicked-off.
Trump has suggested he could bypass all of the primary debates.
On Monday, during a campaign stop in Summerville, South Carolina, the ex-President called the Republican primary debates ‘stupid.’
‘Basically, it’s a job interview. You look at the debates, it’s a job interview, and so far, I’m not too interested,’ he said at a campaign field office ahead of a rally in the early primary contest state.
Donald Trump said during a campaign stop in Summerville, South Carolina on Monday that the debates are ‘stupid’ and said they are ‘a job interview’ in which he’s not ‘interested’ in participating
Convening at the Reagan Library in southern California, the candidates will go head-to-head for the second time in two months – many taking this opportunity to expand on ideas they presented at the first debate.
President of the Reagan Foundation & Institute David Trulio told DailyMail.com that the location of the second debate is significant because of the Reagan-like principals candidates are attempting to emulate.
‘Back in the 70s and 80s, some questioned whether America’s best days were behind her, and we see that today,’ Trulio noted during a sit-down at the library on Tuesday.
‘So President Reagan believed in debate when he established this library in November of 1991,’ Trulio added. ‘He said he wanted it to be ‘a dynamic intellectual forum’ where policymakers debate the future. So what better place in the Reagan Library for candidates in this case of the Republican Party to make their case for why they should attain the highest office in the land than this place?’
He also noted the disappointment felt that Trump will not participate in the debate.
‘We would love for any candidate who meets the RNC qualifications to be here and that, of course, includes President Trump,’ Trulio said. ‘He has chosen not to sign the pledge as I understand it, which therefore precludes his ability to come on stage, but he met the other requirements that the RNC set.’
After failing to close the gap with Trump – and actually seeing it widen after the first debate – many political strategists say that the pressure is on for DeSantis to really perform alongside the other candidates essentially in the race for second place.
Meanwhile, others tell DailyMail.com that Scott needs to make this debate his moment if he wants to meet the enhanced criteria for the third debate later in the fall.
How are the candidates preparing for the debate?
Sen. Scott prepares mostly by praying, spending time with family and staying active by going to gym and playing pickleball, a person familiar with the candidate’s preparations told DailyMail.com.
Speaking with Fox News last week, Scott said: ‘[What I] hope you see on Wednesday night is a guy being authentically who he is. I wanna be myself.’
‘The goal is for us to be able to have a conversation about the most important issues facing this nation,’ the senator added, later saying: ‘I’m the defender for those who cannot find someone to stand up. I will be the voice for those who feel voiceless because I’ve been that kid.’
A source familiar with DeSantis’ debate preparations and strategy said that his team expects the governor to face more attacks this time.
‘Other candidates made a mistake last time by not attacking and I don’t think they will make the same mistake again,’ the source told DailyMail.com.
Ron DeSantis faces a decisive night in his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee as he takes the stage in primetime with six of his rivals in California
A letter sent to ‘friends, donors and supporters’ suggests that Desantis will not stoop to attacking his fellow candidates on-stage.
‘While other candidates may take this opportunity to distract or level false attacks, DeSantis stays laser-focused on the mission at hand of reviving the American Dream and delivering victories for hardworking families,’ the memo penned by DeSantis campaign manager James Uthmeier reads.
He continued by slamming Trump for his refusal to debate as well as his general absence from the primary campaign trail. Uthmeier compared the ex-Presidents campaigning style to that of Biden’s ‘campaign-from-the-basement strategy’ in the midst of the 2020 pandemic.
Notorious for keeping strategy lock-lipped on debate strategy, Haley’s team can expect a target on her back following her post-debate surge last time around, political strategists tell DailyMail.com.
It’s unlikely, they note, that Haley, who is the only woman on stage, will back-down from attacks from her GOP competitors.
Vivek Ramaswamy stole the show at the first debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Can he capture the limelight again and cement his status as a candidate to be taken seriously
How did they qualify for the debate?
Criteria for the second debate include the candidates proving to the RNC that they polled above 3 percent in August or September in at least two separate national surveys.
Alternately, the candidates could only reach the national threshold with one poll, while polling above 3 percent in two separate early primary state polls in two of the four early primary states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina.
The polls had to include at least 800 registered likely Republican voters and the survey couldn’t be affiliated with any of the candidates.
Candidates also need to attract donations from a minimum of 50,000 individuals – including at least 200 from 20 different states or U.S. territories.
Like the first debate, candidates were required to sign a pledge vowing to support whoever becomes the GOP nominee in the 2024 race. This is something that has been criticized by some candidates, including Christie and Hutchinson. They claim the pledge caters to Trump, who is more than likely to be the nominee.
The third debate is scheduled for early November in Miami, Florida, sources told multiple media outlets.
Julie Chávez Rodríguez, campaign manager for the Biden-Harris 2024 reelection, told reporters in southern California on Tuesday that the team is letting Republicans speak for their extreme agenda.
‘We’re going to stay focused on getting that message of our accomplishments out and making sure that voters understand the extreme agenda that we’re gonna continue to see tomorrow night coming from that debate stage,’ she noted during a press conference with unionized farmers endorsing the President’s reelection bid.