Longshot Republican presidential candidates scramble to make 2nd debate next week

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum vows that his Republican White House campaign will not be sidetracked if he falls short in his bid to qualify for next week’s second GOP presidential nomination debate.

“We’re going to keep charging forward,” Burgum told Fox News Digital.

However, Burgum’s campaign and an allied super PAC are making major investments this week in trying to boost the national ID of a politician who is far from a household name outside his native North Dakota in an attempt to make the stage.

Burgum has just under a week to qualify for the second debate, a FOX Business and Univision hosted showdown Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

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Also aiming to qualify is former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who along with Burgum took the stage last month at the first GOP presidential nominating debate.

“We made the last debate. It surprised everybody. People had counted us out. So don’t count us out in this next debate,” Hutchinson emphasized in a Fox News Digital interview.

The Republican National Committee — which is organizing the GOP presidential primary debates — raised the thresholds the candidates need to reach to make the stage at the second showdown.

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To participate in the second debate, each candidate must have a minimum of 50,000 unique donors to their campaign or exploratory committee, including 200 donors in 20 or more states. The candidates must also reach 3% support in two national polls or reach 3% in one national poll and 3% in two polls conducted in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, the four states that lead off the Republican presidential nominating calendar.

Additionally, candidates are also required to sign a pledge in which they agree to support the eventual Republican presidential nominee. They must agree not to participate in any non-RNC sanctioned debates for the rest of the 2024 election cycle and agree to data-sharing with the national party committee.

So far, according to a Fox News count, six of the eight candidates who took part in last month’s first GOP presidential nomination debate have already reached the RNC’s criteria.

They are former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, biotech entrepreneur and political commentator Vivek Ramaswamy, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Former President Trump, who has reached the donor and polling thresholds, did not sign the RNC’s pledge. Pointing to his large lead over his rivals for the nomination, he did not attend the first debate and is not expected to show up for the second showdown.

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Burgum, who has already hit the donor threshold for the second debate, says he has met the polling threshold in two of the early states but has yet to reach 3% in a national survey.

He and rest of the candidates trying to qualify have until 9 p.m. ET Monday — 48 hours before the debate — to reach the RNC’s thresholds.

Speaking with reporters after greeting the lunchtime crowd at the 405 Pub and Grill in Laconia, New Hampshire, on Monday with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, Burgum took aim at what he charged was a “goofy clubhouse rule.”

“It shouldn’t be the political polls, it shouldn’t be the pundits, it shouldn’t be party leaders that decide who gets to be on the ballot. It should be the voters who decide who moves forward. And Iowa and New Hampshire have done a fantastic job of thinning the field,” Burgum argued as he answered a question from Fox News.

He pledged that he would be on the ballot in Iowa and New Hampshire regardless of whether he made the second debate stage. “We’re going to be here because the voters of these two states decide who goes forward,” he said.

Burgum’s campaign on Monday announced that they have launched a new national voter contact program which potentially could boost his support in the polls in the coming days.

“The direct text video-to-voter program hyper-targets highly persuadable Republicans and conservative-leaning independents likely to vote in the Republican presidential primary with a tested video message most likely to move numbers,” the Burgum campaign highlighted in a release.

The move from the North Dakota governor’s presidential campaign comes as the Burgum aligned Best of America super PAC shelled out another $2 million to an existing $6 million national ad buy to try and boost the candidate’s poll numbers. 

Looking toward next week’s showdown, Hutchinson emphasized that it is “very important because a lot’s happened since the last debate.”

Hutchinson, who has yet to reach the polling and donor thresholds, told Fox News during an interview in Newton, Iowa on Saturday at the Jasper County GOP annual trap shoot that “we’re looking forward to being on the debate stage. We look to increasing those numbers.”

Among those still trying to qualify for the second debate — who did not make the stage at the first debate — are 2022 Michigan gubernatorial candidate, businessman and quality control expert Perry Johnson, former CIA agent and former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, and Larry Elder, a former nationally syndicated radio host who was a candidate in California’s 2021 gubernatorial recall election.

Hurd, who has said he will not sign the RNC’s pledge due to his vocal criticism and opposition to Trump, told Fox News earlier this month that “we’re working hard to meet those requirements.”

When asked if he would drop out of the race if he does not qualify for next week’s debate, Hurd said “my focus right now is to hit those requirements to be on that second debate stage, and then we’ll go from there.”

Fox News’ Remy Numa and Kirill Clark contributed to this report.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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