Second GOP primary debate to begin at 9 p.m. EST

In the prior debate, many of the candidates turned their sites on Ramaswamy, who had enjoyed a polling surge in the lead up to the event.

Published: September 26, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: September 27, 2023 6:55pm

The Republican National Committee will hold its second primary debate Wednesday evening at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, presenting seven candidates with another opportunity to break out and position themselves as the strongest challenger to former President Donald Trump as he soars in the polls.

Wednesday's debate is slated for 9 p.m. EST and will air on Fox Business, Univision, and Rumble.

The RNC confirmed the debate participants were Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, tech mogul Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

The seven candidates currently rank in that order by polling in the RealClearPolitics polling average, though Trump stands in first by a wide margin.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was the only participant in the previous debate to fail to make the cut for Wednesday's event.

Trump, for his part, won't attend and instead will travel to Michigan to address striking auto workers. He did not attend the first debate either and opted to release a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson.

Trump hasn't just increased his lead on the GOP field, he also has jumped ahead of President Joe Biden in polling in a hypothetical general election matchup.

In the prior debate, many of the candidates turned their sights on Ramaswamy, who had enjoyed a polling surge in the lead up to the event. The tech mogul was a key fixture of that affair, making bold proclamations such as declaration the "climate change agenda" to be a "hoax." He further sparred with Haley over their sharply divided policies on Ukraine, and with Pence over the importance of political experience.

Haley, for her part, attracted attention for both her exchanges with Ramaswamy on foreign affairs and with Pence over abortion. Since the debate, she has enjoyed a modest polling surge and now stands in third place, narrowly edging out Ramaswamy.

Little else has changed in terms of polling order. DeSantis remains the clear second place candidate, though his stock has fallen in recent weeks. The Wednesday show could present one of the last opportunities for the Florida governor to reverse his falling poll numbers or risk dropping out of the silver slot. 

For Haley and Ramaswamy, the contest presents an opportunity to capitalize on their momentum and either gain ground from an ailing DeSantis or sway support from the stragglers' camps.

For everyone else, the debate may be a make or break moment.

The RNC has raised the requirements to attend the third debate, which is scheduled for Nov. 8 and will be held in Miami, Fla. Candidates must reach a 5% threshold in a combination of state and national polls. At present Pence, Scott, Christie, and Burgum all poll below that threshold on average at the national level, though the polling mix may allow them to make the cut, nonetheless.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.

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