Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made the cut for Wednesday’s fourth GOP presidential primary debate taking place in Alabama, the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced on Monday.
The RNC said that Mr. Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy will take the stage at the Moody Music Building on the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.
NewsNation will live stream the GOP debate, with a simulcast on The CW. It will be moderated by Elizabeth Vargas, anchor of NewsNation’s “Elizabeth Vargas Reports,” Megyn Kelly, host of “The Megyn Kelly Show” on SiriusXM, and Eliana Johnson, editor-in-chief of The Washington Free Beacon.
The GOP’s leading candidate, polling at around 61 percent, former President Donald Trump, had already indicated that he would skip the fourth debate, as he has with every debate so far. He will instead join Fox News’ Sean Hannity for a town hall discussion.
Mr. Christie’s qualification for the debate had been uncertain, with candidates required to meet higher donor and polling criteria set by the RNC this time. Last week, however, he expressed optimism when his campaign announced that he met the donor threshold.
The RNC has continually raised the polling and donor threshold after each of the last two debates, narrowing the field and making it harder for lower-performing candidates to make the stage.
The donor threshold meant that candidates needed to have at least 80,000 unique donors, with at least 200 in 20 states or territories. The polling threshold meant that candidates must also be polling at least 6 percent in two national polls or at least 6 percent in one national poll, and the same in two separate early polling states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Nevada.
The RNC has the final say on who will qualify by Monday’s evening cutoff. Its chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, hailed the fourth debate as “another fantastic opportunity for our Republican candidates to share our winning agenda with the American people.”
“President [Ronald] Reagan was the first sitting president to visit the University of Alabama nearly 40 years ago, just before cruising to a landslide victory in 1984, and I’m thrilled to return our conservative message to Tuscaloosa on Wednesday night,” she added in a statement.
RNC Criteria CriticizedThe RNC has faced accusations of “nationalizing” the primary process. These claims were repeated on Monday by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who announced that he was ending his campaign for the GOP nomination.
“The RNC’s clubhouse debate requirements are nationalizing the primary process and taking the power of democracy away from the engaged, thoughtful citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire,” Mr. Burgum said in a statement.
Mr. Burgum qualified for the first two debates but not the third, which was held last month in Miami. He called the RNC’s criteria “arbitrary” and contended that it gave an advantage to candidates from “major media markets on the coasts,” but not to those from “America’s Heartland.”
“None of their debate criteria relate to the qualifications related to actually doing the job of the president,” he added. “This effort to nationalize the primary system is unhealthy for the future of the party, especially for a party that proclaims to value leadership from outside of Washington.”
Meanwhile, the Biden campaign announced Monday that it would hold a press conference in Tuscaloosa during the debate on Wednesday to draw attention to “how Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans’ agenda is on display in Alabama and the stakes of the 2024 election.”