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mike pence

Pence says he’s now met the polling and donor qualifications for the first Republican debate

The former vice president is the eighth candidate to qualify for the leadoff debate on Aug. 23

Former Vice President Mike Pence, speaks with reporters after his lunch with supporters at a Pizza Ranch restaurant in Waukee, Iowa, on June 8, 2023.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, speaks with reporters after his lunch with supporters at a Pizza Ranch restaurant in Waukee, Iowa, on June 8, 2023.JONATHAN ERNST (REUTERS)

Former Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday he has qualified for the first Republican debate of the 2024 presidential cycle, securing the required number of donors with just two weeks until candidates gather in Milwaukee. According to his campaign, Pence has amassed 40,000 unique donors, checking off the final debate requirement set by the Republican National Committee.

Pence becomes the eighth candidate to announce qualification for the first debate, joining former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

Pence had long ago met the RNC’s polling requirements for the Aug. 23 debate — at least 1% in three high-quality national polls or a mix of national and early-state polls, between July 1 and Aug. 21 — but struggled to notch the mandated number of donors.

Both Pence and his advisers had expressed confidence that he would meet that qualification, but his fundraising appeals intensified as the prospect loomed that he might not make the stage.

He got a boost in attention last week in the form of a newly unsealed federal indictment that outlined criminal charges filed against Donald Trump in connection with the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Highlighting Pence’s central role to the case, the indictment was informed, in part, by notes that the then-vice president kept of his conversations with Trump in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump tried to pressure Pence to go along with his attempt to keep the two men in power. In one episode, Trump is alleged to have told Pence that he was “too honest” for rejecting Trump’s false claims that Pence had the power to stop congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

Marking a notable change in tone for a usually cautious candidate who has struggled to break through in a primary dominated by his former boss, Pence’s campaign seized on the opportunity, unveiling new T-shirts and baseball caps for sale featuring the phrase “Too Honest” in big red letters.

Trump, meanwhile, has questioned why he should participate in the debate given his commanding lead in polls. He has floated the idea of holding a competing event of his own instead.

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