Mike Pence Qualifies for Second GOP Debate

Pence wants to debate Trump, who has zero interests in debating GOP primary contenders on television.
Mike Pence Qualifies for Second GOP Debate
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during Fair Side Chat at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 11, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Bill Pan

Former Vice President Mike Pence has met the polling and fundraising requirements for the second Republican presidential debate, his campaign said.

To get to the second debate, scheduled for Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, a candidate needs at least 50,000 unique donors, with at least 200 coming from 20 different states.

A Republican primary contender must also poll at least 3 percent in two national polls or one national poll in addition to two early state polls. The early states that count are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.

In a Friday message to donors, Pence campaign manager Steve Damaura wrote that they had crossed both markers. The campaign said earlier this month that they have over 200 unique donors in 40 states, far higher than the 20-state threshold.

Vice President Pence is now the seventh Republican presidential candidate to pass the thresholds to make the stage at the second debate. The other Republicans who've already met the criteria are former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

South Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is only qualified for the first primary debate, which will be held Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The qualification requirements for the first debate are less demanding. To get there, a candidate needs 40,000 unique donors and must poll at least 1 percent in three national polls or in a mixture of 1 percent in two national polls and two early state polls.

Three Republicans have not yet made the cut. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson doesn't have enough donors, while former Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and former Texas Rep. Will Hurd struggle at the polls, according to opinion poll analysis website FiveThirtyEight.

Trump Rules Out Attending Debates

President Trump, who is beating second-placer DeSantis by 41 percentage points in Morning Consult's potential GOP primary voter poll, has yet to formally announce if he'll attend the first debate. However, he did signal that he may not participate in any of them.

In a post on Truth Social, President Trump suggested that he does not need to debate other GOP primary contenders on television, considering that he is dominating the polls by such a magnificent margin.

"As everyone is aware, my Poll numbers, over a 'wonderful' field of Republican candidates, are extraordinary," he wrote on Thursday. "In fact, I am leading the runner up, whoever that may now be, by more than 50 Points."

President Trump also noted how in 1980, Ronald Reagan didn't attend a GOP primary debate in Iowa because he felt no need to participate as a frontrunner. Despite losing the Iowa caucus to George H.W. Bush, Reagan eventually won the Republican presidential nomination and evicted President Jimmy Carter from the White House in a landslide.

"Reagan didn't do it, and neither did others," President Trump wrote. "People know my Record, one of the BEST EVER, so why would I Debate?"

 Former President Donald Trump tosses caps to the crowd at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 12, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Former President Donald Trump tosses caps to the crowd at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 12, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

President Trump has also refused to sign the loyalty pledge that Republican National Committee asks all qualifying candidates to sign before the first debate. The pledge states that the candidate will support whoever wins the nomination.

"Why would I sign it?" President Trump said last week in an interview with Newsmax. "I can name three or four people that I wouldn't support for president. So right there, there's a problem."

When asked to name the candidates he was referring to, he said he would not, because "there's no reason to insult them."

All other candidates have signed or said they're willing to sign the loyalty pledge, with the exception of Will Hurd. A vocal Trump critic, Mr. Hurd is doubling down on not committing to support the eventual nominee, even though it jeopardizes his already small chance to participate in the Aug. 23 debate.

"My problem is not with supporting Republican nominees, it's supporting Donald Trump," the former congressman told reporters. "I also think these loyalty pledges are not something that the Republican Party should do."

Pence Wants to Debate Trump

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence said Friday that he hopes to debate his "differences" with his former boss.

"I always stood loyally by Donald Trump until my oath to the Constitution required me to do otherwise. But my differences with the president go far beyond that fateful day, and I hope to have a chance to debate them with him," he said at "The Gathering," an annual event hosted by conservative radio host Erick Erickson, in an apparent reference to the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

The two men broke over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, with the vice president insisting that he didn't have the authority to reject electoral votes from states where election integrity has been questioned by the Trump campaign.

"Look, we have real differences about the future of the country as well," he added. "Sometimes people ask me, 'How do you envision debating Donald Trump?' I say, 'I've debated Donald Trump 1000 times, just not with the cameras on.'"