With the thresholds to qualify for the next Republican presidential nomination debate rising, and crucial fundraising reports from the campaigns due in the coming days, the still relatively-large field of GOP White House hopefuls may be slashed in the weeks to come.
Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, who flirted with a 2024 run before deciding against it, has been saying for months that the field in the Republican presidential nomination race needs to shrink.
‘If you don’t make the first couple of debates, then you probably have to have a tough conversation and get out of the race,’ Sununu said.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who made the stage at the first two Republican showdowns, told Fox News in August that for his rivals who ‘haven’t made the stage’ at the debates, ‘it’s time to go.’
So far, only one White House hopeful has called it quits.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez suspended his campaign after failing to make the stage at the first Republican presidential nomination debate, a Fox News-hosted August 23 showdown in Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the only one of the eight candidates on the stage at the first debate who failed to qualify for Wednesday’s second debate – a Fox Business co-hosted event held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California – says if he fails to make the stage at the third GOP presidential nomination debate, he’ll consider dropping out.
‘If I don’t make that, we’ll re-evaluate where we are,’ Hutchinson told reporters this week as he referred to the third debate, which will be held Nov. 8 in Miami, Florida.
When asked for clarification if his response meant he would consider dropping out, Hutchinson answered, ‘Sure.’
Michigan businessman and quality control industry expert Perry Johnson, who failed to qualify for the first two debates, is now mulling a pivot to run for the open Senate seat in his home state.
‘Obviously, it’s no secret that I’ve had a lot of calls to run for this seat because they do want to win this seat. But at this point in time, my focus is right on the presidential [race], and, believe me, that’s taking all my time and energy at this point,’ Johnson told Fox News on Thursday.
Former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, who previously served as an undercover agent in the CIA, also didn’t make the stage at the first two debates.
‘My team and I are constantly evaluating whether we have the resources to chart a path to victory,’ he wrote in a statement Wednesday. ‘I’m headed to New Hampshire to spread my message to the Granite State ahead of the First In the Nation primary. Educating voters on how to solve these existential issues is important, and hopefully other candidates will follow my lead.’
GOP contender Larry Elder, a former nationally syndicated radio host and 2021 California gubernatorial recall election candidate, also failed to qualify for the first two debates.
Former President Donald Trump skipped the first two debates as he pointed to his commanding lead in the GOP presidential nomination race and said this past week that he won’t attend the third debate.
Sununu, a vocal Trump critic, envisions a smaller field by the end of the year, just ahead of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary — the first two contests in the Republican nominating calendar.
‘I think by the time you get to the end of December, you’ll have five or six different candidates going into Iowa, maybe three or four coming into New Hampshire,’ Sununu predicted. ‘If that’s the case, a huge opportunity for the Republican Party.’
The July-September third quarter of fundraising came to a close on Saturday, with the campaigns required to post their figures in the next two weeks.
A lackluster fundraising report could be the death knell for some of the candidates struggling to make the debate stage.
‘I think a lot of these candidates are going to run out of gas as they try to drive to the next debate in Miami,’ longtime Republican consultant Alex Castellanos told Fox News.
Castellanos, a veteran of numerous Republican presidential campaigns, said that some of the candidates will ‘soon have to take their ball and go home.’
‘The time is coming soon for the smaller contenders to drop out so the field can begin to coalesce. Donald Trump can beat everybody, but he may not be able to beat somebody. That’s the test,’ Castellanos emphasized.
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