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Explained | The importance of the fourth Republican debate and who will be there

Ultimately, any candidate will need to chip away at Trump's massive lead if they want a shot at the nomination, and he will not be present.
Last Updated 06 December 2023, 12:47 IST

Washington: Four Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to face off in the fourth debate of their party's 2024 nominating contest this Wednesday.

Here are some facts about the debate:

Where is it?

It will take place at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa at 7 pm local time (0100 GMT). It will be hosted by subscription-based television network NewsNation, conservative political journal the Washington Free Beacon, The Megyn Kelly Show on Sirius XM and Rumble, a video hosting service popular with conservatives.

The forum, which will be broadcast on television news channel NewsNation and streamed on Rumble, represents something of an experiment by the Republican National Committee after the first three debates were hosted by major news networks Fox and NBC.

Alabama is a deeply Republican state, which will not be competitive in the 2024 general election. It does, however, host a relatively early primary contest, set for March 5.

Who will be there?

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley- who are battling for second place in the primary race- tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be on stage, according to the Republican National Committee.

Former President Donald Trump will notably not be there, which limits the debate's significance given that he leads the field by more than 40 percentage points, most polls show. Trump has skipped all of the previous debates, saying the party should shift its attention to the general election. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who qualified for the third debate, has dropped out.

Unlike the previous debates, Trump has no plans to counter-program by holding his own public event, and instead will host a private fundraiser.

Will the debate matter?

Ultimately, any candidate will need to chip away at Trump's massive lead if they want a shot at the nomination, and he will not be present. The Iowa caucuses, the first contest of the primary campaign, are set for Jan 15.

DeSantis leads Haley in most national surveys, but Haley is well ahead of DeSantis in the early nominating states of New Hampshire and South Carolina. She has been rising in opinion polls for months, while DeSantis has stalled out.

If either candidate has a particularly strong performance, that could help him or her break that stalemate and begin to consolidate the support of Republicans looking to move beyond Trump. Still, the importance of debates has historically varied, and even a standout showing is not guaranteed to reshape the race for runner-up.

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(Published 06 December 2023, 12:47 IST)

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