What to know about the 2nd Republican presidential primary debate

The RNC has upped the threshold to qualify for the debate stage.

September 26, 2023, 9:05 AM

The leading 2024 Republican presidential candidates will go head-to-head once again at the second GOP primary debate on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 9 p.m. at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

After last month's debate in Milwaukee, candidates are set to spar again -- this time, with fewer on stage as a result of higher thresholds for candidates to qualify. And once again, the front-runner, former President Donald Trump, is expected to skip the event.

Here's what to know about the second Republican presidential primary debate:

How to watch the debate

The two-hour debate will air live on FOX Business and Univision, the Republican National Committee said. Rumble will be the exclusive RNC livestream provider. Fox News Media's Stuart Varney and Dana Perino and Univision's Ilia Calderón will moderate the debate.

ABC News and 538 will have live updates online of the latest action on the debate stage as well as analysis on the biggest takeaways from the night.

Who will be participating in the presidential debate?

It appears there will be seven participants in the party’s second primary debate.

PHOTO: Six of the eight Republican presidential contenders on the debate stage indicate that they would support Donald Trump as their party's 2024 White House nominee even if he is convicted of a crime at the first Republican candidates' debate
Six of the eight Republican presidential contenders on the debate stage indicate that they would support Donald Trump as their party's 2024 White House nominee even if he is convicted of a crime at the first Republican candidates' debate of the 2024 U.S. presidential campaign in Milwaukee, Aug. 23, 2023.
Brian Snyder/Reuters

Eight candidates made it to the stage for the first debate -- seven of whom appear to have met the donor and polling thresholds outlined by the RNC to qualify for the debate, according to an analysis from 538.

Overall, seven candidates besides Trump had sufficient polls and donors to qualify for the debate stage by the RNC’s deadline Monday evening. Additionally, all seven signed the RNC’s pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee ahead of the last debate.

Those candidates include: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who participated in the first debate, did not qualify; nor did former Texas Rep. Will Hurd.

How do candidates qualify for the second debate stage?

The qualifications for the second debate stage were different than the first GOP debate.

This time around, the RNC upped the thresholds for candidates to make the debate stage, potentially decreasing the number of candidates who will qualify. Politico first reported on those updated requirements.

To debate, candidates needed to:

  • reach at least 3% in two national polls, or 3% in one national poll and 3% in two polls conducted from separate early nominating states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada), in order to qualify.
  • provide evidence of having attained at least 50,000 unique donors to their campaign
  • sign a pledge to support the party's eventual 2024 nominee if they want to participate.

Candidates had to qualify 48 hours before the debate, on Sept. 25, the RNC said.

Will front-runner Donald Trump attend the debate?

Trump is expected to skip the second Republican primary debate. He will instead visit Detroit to deliver a speech in front of union workers amid a major auto strike, according to a senior adviser.

Trump skipped the first debate, too. Instead, he spoke with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson for an interview that ran the same time as the debate.

PHOTO: In this Aug. 12, 2023, file photo, Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks as he campaigns at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa.
In this Aug. 12, 2023, file photo, Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks as he campaigns at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa.
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters, FILE

Format of the second debate

During the debate, the candidates will have one minute to answer questions posed by the moderators and 30 seconds for follow-ups, according to guidance Fox sent to campaigns and obtained by ABC News.

Those follow-up questions will be at the moderators' discretion.

There will be no opening or closings statements from the candidates, according to the Fox guidance.

History of debates at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

The second GOP debate will take place at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, which has become an "iconic venue" for such events, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said.

The library has hosted many other Republican primary debates over the years, including the debates for the cycles in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

PHOTO: In this Sept. 7, 2011, file photo, Republican candidates Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Jon Huntsman debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
In this Sept. 7, 2011, file photo, Republican presidential candidates from left to right Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Jon Huntsman debate during the GOP Presidential Primary Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images, FILE

"President Reagan felt strongly that the institution that bore his name should be a 'dynamic intellectual forum' where leaders would debate the future. We are excited to partner with the RNC to host the next Republican presidential candidate debate at the Reagan Library," said David Trulio, president and CEO of The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

When are other 2024 presidential debates happening?

The third Republican presidential primary debate will be held in Miami, Florida, in early November.

The RNC has not yet confirmed the details of the third debate including its venue, date or sponsors.