FL has three GOP presidential candidates, but will all of them be on the debate stage this month?

Francis Suarez is ‘confident’ he’ll make the GOP debate stage on August 23 – but it may be tough for him

By: - August 8, 2023 11:48 am

President Donald Trump and Joe Biden met in the final debate of the 2020 presidential election in Nashville on Oct. 23, 2020. Source: Screenshot

The Sunshine State is the home to three Republicans running for the party’s nomination for president, but as attention turns to the first debate of the 2023-2024 election cycle, only Gov. Ron DeSantis is sure to be on the stage in Milwaukee on August 23.

Former President Donald Trump speaks on May 28, 2022, in Casper, Wy. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is by far the front-runner for the GOP nomination, but the former president’s camp has previously indicated that Trump will forgo the first debate. However, it appears that he’s still considering an appearance.

In a fundraising email sent to supporters on Sunday, Trump is urging donors to “please take my poll whether you should think I should show up to the Republican primary debate, according to USA Today.

The newspaper also reported that Trump has been asking supporters at campaign events whether or not he should debate.

Meanwhile, DeSantis has been emphatic that he will be at the debate, and his team has been suggesting that it could be the biggest event to help boost his sagging campaign, which led on Tuesday to the replacement of his campaign manager, Generra Peck, as first reported by The Messenger. DeSantis then brought on James Uthmeier, his chief of staff at the governor’s office, according to The Messenger.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answered questions from reporters in front of the Never Back Down PAC bus in Chariton on July 27, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

DeSantis has criticized Trump for considering not attending.

“Nobody is entitled to this nomination,” DeSantis told Boston conservative radio show host Howie Carr last month. “You have got to earn the nomination.”

Meanwhile, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced Monday night that his presidential campaign has now received financial contributions from 40,000 unique donors, one of the top criteria to qualify for the first Republican presidential debate scheduled for later this month in Milwaukee.

“In less than six weeks my team and I have quite literally gone from zero to a hundred and we are confident that I will be on the debate stage in two weeks,” Suarez wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday.

But getting 40,000 unique donors is only one of the qualifications needed to participate in the debate according to the rules promulgated by the Republican National Committee, and he may need to do something dramatic to raise his profile soon.

Candidates must also be polling at least 1% in three national polls or 1% in two national polls and 1% in one early state poll (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina), according to the criteria announced by the Republican National Committee.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez appearing on Fox News on August 7, 2023. Screenshot from Fox News)

There the Miami Mayor is on tougher sledding.

In some of the most recent national GOP presidential polls, Suarez doesn’t get to 1%. A New York Times/Sienna poll from last week has him at 0.5%. Surveys by Reuters/IpsosMorning Consult and Economist/YouGov did not list him at all.

In the early voting states, Suarez is at 1% in Iowa in a Fox News poll conducted between July 15-19, but doesn’t appear to rate in any other state poll conducted over the past month.

The debate will be held from 8 to 10 p.m., local time, and 9 to 11 p.m. eastern time.

Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum will co-moderate, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.