(The Center Square) – Republican presidential primary candidates are set to take the stage Wednesday night to make headlines and pitch the American voters.
“Tonight’s the night,” Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., wrote on social media. “It’s game time. I’m ready to share my optimistic, conservative message with America.”
The candidates face an uphill battle against former President Donald Trump, who leads by a healthy margin and will skip the debates but could have his chances sunk by a myriad of legal issues. For that reason, second place is more important than ever, and while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis currently holds that spot, others have been gaining on him.
Tonight could be a make-or-break night for DeSantis, who needs to show he is a viable opponent to Trump.
For candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, a businessman and author, the debate provides a chance to broaden his name recognition and introduce himself to millions of Americans who still know little to nothing about him.
“Elevating healthy discourse and policy contrast with other candidates isn’t an attack, but will be an opportunity to see who will actually stand up to Xi Jinping as well as the Deep State,” Ramaswamy said in an email to supporters. “This debate will be your first chance to see who is not afraid to lead this nation to become a better America and reclaim a country we can be proud of.”
Candidates who qualified for the debate Wednesday night are:
- North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum
- Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
- Former Ambassador Nikki Haley
- Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
- Former Vice President Mike Pence
- Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy
- South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott
Burgum was rushed to the hospital late Tuesday, and it remains unclear if he will participate in the debate.
Trump, who will not be on the stage, warned that he would be “very busy” Wednesday night, suggesting he could be responding on social media in real time to comments from his competition.
“I WILL BE VERY BUSY TOMORROW NIGHT – ENJOY!!!” Trump wrote on social media.
Sunday, Trump confirmed media reports that he would pass on “the debates,” which also hints that he will not participate in the next debate which is scheduled for Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California. An interview with Trump conducted by ousted Fox News host Tucker Carlson is expected to go online Wednesday night as part of Trump’s media plan in lieu of the debate.
Trump currently faces four indictments and nearly a hundred legal charges in New York, Florida, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. Those charges are related either to his handling of classified documents or alleged work to overturn the 2020 election results or his alleged payments to Stormy Daniels.
Whether Republican winners would pardon the president could come up at the debate.
Despite the legal woes, The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll, conducted in conjunction with Noble Predictive Insights, found that Trump is far out ahead of his Republican competitors. The poll found that 53% of surveyed Republicans support Trump, followed by 18% supporting DeSantis. Former Vice President Mike Pence and entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy came in third and fourth place with 7% and 6% support, respectively.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley tied for fifth place at 4% support.
In a theoretical Republican primary head-to-head matchup where those surveyed are forced to pick between either Trump or DeSantis, 63% chose Trump and 37% picked DeSantis.
“See You Tomorrow America!” Pence wrote on social media late Tuesday.
Conservative radio host Larry Elder said he plans to sue the RNC for not being included in the debate. He says the RNC rejected a poll from Rasmussen that would have allowed him to qualify.
“I submitted Rasmussen as one of the three required national polls. You rejected Rasmussen because, in your words, “it is affiliated with the Trump campaign,” Elder wrote on social media. “Rasmussen said Trump did not pay for its poll and did not even suggest that they conduct one! I’ve met all the requirements, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be on that debate stage …”
Businessman and author Perry Johnson, who is also running for the Republican nomination, has made a similar complaint and pledged legal action.