As first Republican presidential primary debate approaches on Aug. 23, some candidates are still scrambling to meet the criteria. 

To qualify for the first debate in Milwaukee, the Republican National Committee requires that candidates reach at least 1% in multiple eligible polls, gather at least 40,000 donors, and sign a pledge committing to supporting the ultimate GOP nominee.

The RNC has not yet independently verified which candidates qualify for the stage. Here is where the candidates stand. 

Qualified, according to their campaigns 

Doug Burgum

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s campaign announced in late July that he qualified for the first debate, following Burgum offering donors $20 gift cards for $1 donations. Burgum’s spokesman said the governor “is looking forward to sharing his focus on the economy, energy and national security at the August debate.”

Burgum was a little-known name outside of North Dakota politics before he announced his presidential bid.

Ron DeSantis 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who trails former President Donald Trump in most polls, meets the polling and donor requirements for the first debate, according to his campaign. The candidate also says he signed the RNC loyalty pledge. 

DeSantis’ performance will be critical for an operation that’s shrunk and reorganized in recent months. DeSantis’ campaign shaved more than a third of its staff in the second quarter of 2023 to remain afloat financially through the fall. 

Nikki Haley

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed the RNC loyalty pledge on Aug. 9, according to her campaign. Her campaign says Haley — the only woman in the GOP field — meets the donor and polling threshold for the debate. 

Tim Scott

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina has qualified for the first debate, according to his campaign. He has also signed the RNC’s loyalty pledge, according to a copy of the pledge shared with CBS News. 

Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, has sought to pitch what he describes as an optimistic vision for the country’s future. 

“I look forward to sharing my positive, optimistic message on the GOP Debate stage in Milwaukee,” Scott said after his campaign announced that he qualified. “Republicans are ready for conservative leadership with a backbone, one that will crush the cartels, stand up to China, and protect the America we all love.” 

Vivek Ramaswamy

A political outsider who has campaigned relentlessly, the formerly unknown, 38-year-old entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has captured the attention of a chunk of the GOP electorate. Technically, Ramaswamy became the first Republican candidate to qualify after he said he signed the RNC loyalty pledge in early August. He has met the polling and donor requirements, according to his campaign. 


Francis Suarez

As of Aug. 14, the political action committee supporting Republican Miami Mayor Francis Suarez says he has attained the debate thresholds. Suarez has reached 1% in three national polls, and previously reached the fundraising threshold, the PAC said. But a spokesperson for Suarez’ campaign said they have “no announcement at this time.” 

“Another day, another poll confirms that conservative Miami Mayor Francis Suarez will be on the RNC debate stage,” said SOS America PAC Spokesman Chapin Fay. “Having a successful Republican with a strong record of accomplishment, who is also a prominent Hispanic voice in a campaign with no other Hispanic candidates is a critical step in winning over one of the fastest growing demographics in America.”

Hasn’t signed pledge but campaign says they qualify

Chris Christie

Chris Christie, who blasted the RNC over a similar loyalty pledge in 2015, has balked at the latest RNC loyalty pledge. But Christie told ABC News on Aug. 13 that he hadn’t been presented with such a pledge. 

“They’re still going through, I guess, the process of verifying all of our donors and all the rest of it, but I’m sure I’ll be presented with the pledge at some point in the next week,” Christie said on ABC’s “This Week.” 

Christie said in July he’d met the qualifications for the debate. 

Mike Pence

Former Vice President Mike Pence reached the donor threshold and qualified for the debate on Aug. 8, according to his campaign. The former vice president told Fox News he will sign the RNC pledge to support the ultimate nominee, “especially if it’s me.” But Pence’s team hasn’t announced any such signature yet. Pence has struggled to poll above a few percent, as he faces off against his former boss. 

Donald Trump

Trump, the leading candidate in the GOP field, qualifies by the donor and debate metrics. But Trump has questioned aloud whether he needs to participate when he’s polling so well, and has suggested he might hold another, competing event the same night. Trump also told Newsmax he won’t sign the RNC’s loyalty pledge. 

Trump said to Newsmax on Aug. 9 “what’s the upside” of debating when the others on the stage are “not dumb people.” 

If he does appear on the debate stage, Trump will do so against a backdrop of multiple felony criminal cases against him. 

Who hasn’t qualified

Former Rep. Will Hurd, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and conservative talk radio show host Larry Elder have not yet met the criteria for the GOP debate.