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While the University of Alabama is used to big college football games, it will be the site of the 4th Republican primary debate on December 6, 2023.
Things have changed since the last debate, as South Carolina senator Tim Scott has suspended his campaign for the 2024 election, ending his run.
To qualify for this debate, the candidate must receive at least 6% in 2 approved national polls or 6% in a poll from 2 different early-voting states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina). Candidates also must have 80,000 unique donors with at least 20 states with 200 unique donors per state.
Here are the candidates you should expect to see take the stage for the debate, and the one you definitely will not see again, to keep in mind when betting on politics.
Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida
There have been various times since 2022 where Ron DeSantis was the betting favorite to win the 2024 U.S. election and become the 47th president. But the Florida governor has not built any real momentum from those days, and current polls show that Trump would still win the Republican nomination in a landslide.
Here is what the polling looks like on average from data at FiveThirtyEight for November 20, 2023:
- Donald Trump – 60.3%
- Ron DeSantis – 12.6%
- Nikki Haley – 10.0%
- Vivek Ramaswamy – 4.9%
- Chris Christie – 2.7%
“Unsurprisingly, about two-thirds of Republican voters say that they support Trump, they would be willing to vote for him. Other than that, it’s really Ron DeSantis whose numbers are up there.”@FiveThirtyEight‘s @GalenDruke on polling ahead of debate: https://t.co/pTLxJ5UyNr pic.twitter.com/KEFqOjOess
— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) August 23, 2023
The good news is that DeSantis still holds a small lead over the debate stage field. The bad news is Trump is still clobbering him. DeSantis has not been able to stand out in these debates, making him no better than the emergency backup plan for the GOP in case Trump cannot run in 2024.
Nikki Haley, Former Governor of South Carolina
If any Republican candidate has been shining on the debate stages, it has been Nikki Haley. She offers something different from the other candidates in that she is a woman, has a clearer perspective on hot-button topics like abortion, and she is not afraid to distance herself from Donald Trump as something different for the Republican party’s future.
She also is younger (51) and has not been shy of pointing out that both Biden (81) and Trump (77) are too old to lead another 4 years, a sentiment many in the country will agree with.
Haley’s seen as the most likely contender to Trump in the GOP race when all is said and done, but she is still a longshot to overtake him for the 2024 nominee.
Vivek Ramaswamy, Entrepreneur
Not many people knew who businessman Vivek Ramaswamy was before these debates started, but if you watched them, you definitely know him now. The 38-year-old millionaire – almost billionaire – has been aggressive on the stage, flamboyant with his answers, and you can tell the other candidates are tired of his antics.
Do we really need another president with no prior experience in politics?
While Ramaswamy is expected to qualify for the debate again, he is down bad in the polls, and all his campaign has really done is give him exposure to a wider audience and grow his popularity.
In other words, mission accomplished, as he could not have possibly expected to win the 2024 nomination for the GOP.
Chris Christie, Former Governor of New Jersey
Chris Christie could be in trouble as he may not have the necessary percentages to qualify for this debate. Christie has been lagging in the polls and barely made the last one. This lack of support is believed to be the main reason that Tim Scott dropped out a few weeks ago. Christie faces a similar issue.
The problem with Christie is that he’ll talk a fairly good game, bash Trump on the microphone, but he’ll still vote for him and his policies. So, why wouldn’t voters just go for the real thing instead of an imitation Trump who pretends to hate him?
Christie has failed in past runs for the White House, most notably in 2016 when he suspended his campaign after a few months. This one is on life support as we head into December, so you may not even see him take that stage on the 6th.
Not Attending: Donald Trump, Former United States President
Trump says he’s bored by the primary debates, won’t attend the next one https://t.co/GkIDPfZgyq
— POLITICO (@politico) November 9, 2023
Finally, the person most Republican voters want to see and vote for is unlikely to attend again. It seems wild that Donald Trump would turn down the publicity of a TV appearance, but he has not attended any of the first 3 debates and does not expect to be in Alabama on the 6th either.
When your lead is so huge like Trump’s is, you do not gain anything by going to a debate that can only hurt you if you look dumb. There will be more debates in January, and the field could just be DeSantis and Haley by then. Would Trump maybe venture onto that stage? It is possible, but do not expect him in Alabama for the 4th debate.
Still, you have to wonder how he would insult DeSantis (“Meatball Ron”) or butcher Ramaswamy’s name or make an offensive remark about Haley being a woman. One of the hosts of the debate is Megyn Kelly, someone Trump has a sordid history of beef with too. Would the remaining candidates actually gang up on Trump and tear into him? That could be risky given how beloved he is among the base of voters this field is trying to tap into.
Trump’s appearance would make for better TV, better ratings, better buzz and analysis afterward. Would it serve the country any better? That is unlikely, but more people would definitely tune in. Here are the ratings for the first 3 debates:
- Debate No. 1 (August 23, 2023) – 13 million viewers
- Debate No. 2 (September 27, 2023) – 9.5 million viewers
- Debate No. 3 (November 8, 2023) – 7.5 million viewers
If people are losing interest even as the field shrinks and the better candidates get more time to talk, what does that really say about this race? It is still the party of Trump.