August will bring the first debate of the GOP’s presidential primary, and Mike Pence may not be there.
Despite carrying the name recognition of a former president, Pence has failed to meet the requisite number of donors, and he’s running out of options.
In order to debate, the candidates must meet the rather stringent conditions imposed by the Republican National Committee. Each candidate must amass a nationwide total of 40,000 unique donors, with at least 200 donors per state in 20 states or territories.
However, he’s failed to amass a sufficient number of donors, raising the possibility that he might not qualify for the party’s first debate.
Pence and his advisers have expressed confidence he will eventually attract 40,000 donors. They noted that most other Republican hopefuls took a month or two of being active candidates to meet the mark. Pence entered the race on June 7, the same day as North Dakokta Gov. Doug Burgum and one day after former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“People every day are going to MikePence2024.com and donating even a dollar to get us on the stage… We’re making incredible progress toward that goal. We’re not there yet,” Pence told CNN last month. “We will make it. I will see you at that debate stage.”
Pence has slammed other candidates — like Burgum — for offering gift cards in exchange for small donations. He’s also chastized Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s plan to entice donors by offering raffle tickets to soccer games.
“We’re not offering kickbacks,” Pence told CNN. “We’re not offering gift cards. We’re not even offering soccer tickets. We’re just asking people for their support, and we’re getting support all over the country. And I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Pence debated as a vice presidential candidate in 2016 and 2020. In the last election, Pence became the target of ridicule following his debate against Kamala Harris, his eventual successor as vice president. Pence failed to brush a housefly off his head, and the fly became the subject of a 12-minute segment on Saturday Night Live.
Pence, who was upstaged by a fly in 2020, considers himself to be above gift cards and raffle tickers.
Five other candidates have also failed to qualify, as of Monday. They are businessman Perry Johnson, radio host Larry Elder, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, and Suarez.
So far, seven candidates have qualified. Among them are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, entrepreneur-turned-author Vivek Ramaswamy, Burgum, and Christie.
Former President Donald Trump has qualified, but he’s floated the possibility of boycotting the debate. “If you’re leading by a lot,” Trump asked on Newsmax. “What’s the purpose of doing it?”
In addition to the donor threshold, candidates must be polling either at 1 percent in three national polls recognized by the RNC or in two national polls along with one poll from an early-voting state, like Iowa. They also must sign a pledge to “support” the GOP’s eventual nominee.
In order to debate, a candidate will need to apply by Aug. 21 — two days before the debate on Aug. 23.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.