Several GOP candidates could soon drop out after failing to qualify for third RNC primary debate

 October 14, 2023

In less than a month, the Republican National Committee will host its third GOP primary debate, and it is safe to say that several current candidates in the field will not qualify to participate in that upcoming event.

That leads to the question of which, if any, of those candidates with minimal public support will decide to drop out of the 2024 presidential primary race, according to Fox News.

The outlet pointed to three of the most likely contenders to be the next to end their campaigns, following former Texas Rep. Will Hurd's decision to drop out this past week after he failed to qualify for the first two debates and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez's quitting his campaign in August after failing to qualify for the first debate.

RNC ratchets up eligibility thresholds for third debate

Axios reported last month that the RNC will host the third GOP primary debate in Miami, Florida on Nov. 8 and has set the bar even higher than before for candidates to qualify to appear on stage.

In order to be eligible for the debate, candidates must garner at least 4% support in two national polls or one national poll plus one early-voting state poll, with all of those polls having been conducted after September 1.

Candidates must also show that they have received campaign contributions from at least 70,000 unique individual donors as well as have at least 200 donors each in at least 20 different states or territories.

Larry Elder, Perry Johnson, and Asa Hutchinson could all soon drop out

According to Fox News, those requirements will likely rule out candidates like conservative talk host Larry Elder and Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, both of whom failed to qualify for either of the first two debates that had lower eligibility thresholds.

There are signs that Elder may soon quit his campaign, as he appears to have canceled plans to file paperwork to run in New Hampshire's primary election and is no longer set to appear at an upcoming summit for candidates in that important early-voting state.

However, Elder insisted that he is still in the race even as he asserted that "clearly, the way the RNC shafted me -- by preventing me from participating in the first debate despite my meeting their criteria -- has hurt my campaign."

As for Johnson, he too insisted that he is still a presidential candidate even though he is also reportedly toying with the idea of shifting his candidacy over to run for what will be an open U.S. Senate seat in his home state of Michigan next year.

One other possibility mentioned by Fox News is former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who qualified for the first debate but missed the cut for the second, and though he was campaigning in New Hampshire this week and intends to file to run in that state's primary, he has also indicated that he will likely "re-evaluate" his campaign and consider dropping out if he fails to be included in the third debate.

Lack of polling support could substantially whittle down field of candidates

With regard to the RNC's fundraising benchmarks for the third debate, Fox News noted that it will soon become clear who did and didn't clear that bar as all candidates are required to submit detailed quarterly reports with the Federal Election Commission no later than October 15.

As for the polling support, it is abundantly clear by way of the RealClearPolitics average of polls that the three candidates highlighted by Fox News -- Elder, Johnson, and Hutchinson -- will not be eligible for the third RNC debate, as Hutchinson only averages about 0.4% support and neither Elder nor Johnson is even included in the display.

For what it is worth, that 4% polling threshold could also result in a few other more well-known candidates missing the debate -- and potentially ending their campaigns -- as North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum averages just 0.8%, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has 2%, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie garners 2.8%, and former Vice President Mike Pence registers just shy at 3.7%.

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