Four Republican presidential hopefuls to meet for fourth debate in Alabama | US elections 2024 #Republican #presidential #hopefuls #meet #fourth #debate #Alabama #elections

Four White House hopefuls will meet onstage in Alabama for the fourth Republican presidential primary debate, the smallest lineup yet as the window for denting Donald Trump’s lead narrows.

Wednesday night’s debate, hosted by the cable network NewsNation at the Moody Music Hall at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, offers one of the last major opportunities for the candidates to make their case to Republican voters before the party’s nominating contest begins next month.

The two-hour event will feature Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, and Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and former United Nations ambassador, who are locked in an increasingly combative scrap to be the second-place alternative to Trump. They will be joined by Chris Christie, a former governor of New Jersey and Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur, who both trail far behind.

The three previous debates have so far failed to pull Republican voters away from Trump, who maintains a dominant lead in national and early-state polls with six weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses launch the 2024 GOP nomination calendar.

A national Monmouth University poll released on Wednesday before the debate found Trump 40 percentage points ahead of DeSantis, his next closest rival. Nodding to her momentum on the campaign trail, the poll found Haley’s standing rose the most since July, climbing 9 points from 3%.

The vast majority of Republican voters said Trump would be their strongest candidate against Joe Biden, including four in 10 Republicans who currently support another candidate. Further complicating their path to the nomination, supporters of Trump’s Republican rivals are divided on whether the remaining candidates should stay in the race or coalesce around a single alternative.

“We can parse these numbers until the cows come home, but the results don’t look good for any candidate not named Trump,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

DeSantis, whose campaign has stalled since he entered the race this summer, has staked his campaign’s success on a strong showing in Iowa, which holds its caucuses on 15 January.

“We’re going to win Iowa,” DeSantis said during a Sunday interview on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I think it’s going to help propel us to the nomination.”

DeSantis earned the high-profile endorsement of Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, and is touting his visits to all of the state’s 99 counties. Yet an NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll released at the end of October showed DeSantis tied for second with Haley in Iowa and lagging far behind Trump.

Haley is hoping to build on her campaign’s momentum following a series of strong debate performances. In recent weeks, she has closed in on DeSantis, pulling ahead of him in New Hampshire, while winning over Wall Street donors and racking up endorsements from anti-Trump Republicans, including Americans for Prosperity Action, the political network founded by conservative billionaires, Charles and David Koch.

Trump, who faces 91 federal charges in four cases, including his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election he lost, has sought to portray himself as the inevitable nominee. A series of recent polls showed him leading Biden in several swing states even as he continues to articulate an increasingly anti-democratic vision for a second term. In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, Trump vowed to only be a dictator “other than day one”.

To qualify for the fourth debate, candidates needed at least 6% support either in two national polls or one national poll as well as two polls from states with early nominating contests. They also needed to have at least 80,000 unique donors, up from 70,000 for last month’s debate.

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All candidates must also have signed a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee, which Trump has refused to do. That means the former president, who is trouncing the field in polling and fundraising, technically would not qualify for the debate, even if he chose to attend.

Unlike past debates, Trump is not planning to hold a dueling rally at a location near the debate venue. Instead he will spend the evening at a fundraiser in Florida.

Earlier this week, North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, who failed to qualify for the third debate and was on track to miss the fourth, suspended his campaign, denouncing the RNC’s “clubhouse debate requirements” that he said were “nationalizing the primary process”.

Burgum’s departure came after Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina abruptly ended his campaign, saying that voters “have been really clear that they’re telling me, ‘Not now, Tim.’”

Wednesday’s debate will be hosted by Elizabeth Vargas of NewsNation alongside conservative moderators Megyn Kelly, a former Fox News anchor and Eliana Johnson, editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon.

#Republican #presidential #hopefuls #meet #fourth #debate #Alabama #elections

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