Eight candidates qualify for the first Republican presidential debate

Stage for the CBS News Republican presidential debate in Greenville, South Carolina on February 13, 2016.

Jim Watson | Afp | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Eight presidential candidates have officially qualified for Wednesday's Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, the Republican National Committee confirmed Monday night.

Despite appearing to have met the party's minimum polling and fundraising thresholds, former President Donald Trump will not be on stage as he has refused to sign the RNC's pledge of support for the eventual nominee and has announced that he will will skip debate.

The candidates who qualified and decided to participate are:

  • North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum
  • Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
  • Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
  • Former Governor of Arkansas Asa Hutchinson
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence
  • Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy
  • Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, former Texas Rep. Will Hurd, businessman Perry Johnson and radio host Larry Elder have all been expelled.

The Hurd campaign appeared to run afoul of the RNC's requirement that qualified polls must include “probable” Republican voters.

“If the GOP is aiming to expand our electorate and beat Joe Biden, then we had better be clear about what counts as a likely Republican voter. Anyone, regardless of party, who is willing to tick the box for a Republican should be considered a “likely Republican voter.” “The expansion of our party should be welcomed, not penalized,” said Hurd communications director Natalie Johnson.

Johnson also said Hurd has no plans to withdraw from the campaign at this time.

Johnson tweeted his frustration at being disfellowshipped, calling the process “corrupt.”

Trump will undoubtedly play a big role – he is the clear frontrunner and leads in every recent state and state poll of Republican voters.

But his absence gives his rivals a high-profile opportunity to get their messages across to a wide national audience – the debate will be broadcast on Fox News and Rumble, the online video and live streaming site popular with many Conservatives – and show how they manage fare in the crowded field.

Candidates were required to meet the party's polling and unique donor thresholds and sign a pledge that they would support the eventual Republican nominee and not engage in unsanctioned debate this cycle.

Those who found it difficult to have the first debate might have done so a steeper hill to climb to do the next one in September. While the threshold for individual donors only rises from 40,000 to 50,000, candidates must reach 3% in a few polls, compared to 1% in the first debate.

Most of the field – including Trump, DeSantis, Scott, Haley, Christie and Ramaswamy – met the poll and donor criteria for the first debate with relative ease. For others, however, reaching the thresholds proved more difficult.

burgum spent angry on advertising to attract needed donors and support in the surveys.

Pence easily met the party's election criteria but took until this month to do so Gather the required donors. Hutchinson also needed more time to reach the unique donor threshold and his campaign said he had reached the 40,000 mark only days before.

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