Mike Pence Qualifies for First Republican Presidential Debate

Mike Pence has qualified for the first Republican presidential debate, avoiding the embarrassing scenario of a former vice president failing to make the cut.

(Bloomberg) — Mike Pence has qualified for the first Republican presidential debate, avoiding the embarrassing scenario of a former vice president failing to make the cut.

Pence acquired the 40,000 donors he needed to get on the stage on August 23 in Milwaukee, his campaign announced Tuesday. He also meets the polling thresholds.

Failing to make the debate stage, despite high name recognition and decades in public office, threatened to be a death knell for Pence’s campaign. He has been languishing in the polls, with only 5.1% support — fourth place in the GOP race — according to a RealClearPolitics polling average. 

The debate will provide the candidates a chance to distinguish themselves from the field, but possibly not the frontrunner. Former President Donald Trump, who leads in polls by wide margins, has threatened not to appear. 

“Hopefully, former President Trump has the courage to show up,” said Pence communications adviser Devin O’Malley. 

Last month, financial filings revealed Pence only raised $1.2 million in the second quarter, making it unclear whether he would reach the threshold.  

The campaign ramped up its digital outreach to donors and Pence’s media appearances to improve visibility. Pence also paid for an email advertisement that asked people to donate just $1 to help him qualify for the debate, a gimmick other candidates have also used.

Read more: Pence Campaign Projects Calm in Rush to Make 2024 Debate Stage

Pence announced his candidacy two months ago, but his bid has largely been overshadowed by his clash with Trump. Pence broke publicly with his former boss, refusing demands to reject the Electoral College votes for President Joe Biden during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, even as a mob stormed the US Capitol chanting “hang Mike Pence.”

Last week, Trump was indicted for the third time — this time in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s probe into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, leading Pence to issue a withering rebuke.

“Our constitution is more important than any one man’s career,” Pence said, calling Trump’s campaign a distraction to the country and saying he should never be president again.

Pence is a central figure in the latest indictment, which details Trump’s pressure campaign over the Electoral College votes.

Trump called Pence “delusional” in a post on his Truth Social network Saturday. “I never told a newly emboldened (not based on his 2% poll numbers!) Pence to put me above the Constitution, or that Mike was ‘too honest,’” he said.

Earlier: Pence Rebukes Trump After Former Boss Is Indicted Over Jan. 6

His criticism of the former president has rankled other Republicans. Pence was booed by evangelical voters during an event last month in Des Moines, Iowa.

Advisers have said they don’t believe the break with Trump will hinder Pence’s candidacy and the campaign is focused on getting voters to know him better.

Pence is the eighth candidate to meet the RNC’s criteria, which include the donor threshold and a requirement to register at least 1% in a series of polls. He follows Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Trump.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the threshold for the second debate will be higher: 50,000 unique donors, and at least 3% support in two qualifying national polls — or in one national poll and two polls from separate early-primary states. Polls conducted before August wouldn’t count.

That debate will be held September 27 at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, according to a person familiar with the plans. Based on current polling, Burgum would be most likely to drop off the debate stage in the second round.

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