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President Donald Trump talks to Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, in 2018.
President Donald Trump talks to U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in 2018.Evan Vucci / AP file

Trump, five others step closer to qualifying for GOP debate in August

An NBC News analysis of polling data found that six contenders for the Republican nomination are close to meeting RNC criteria for the first GOP debate.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the Republican National Committee's polling criteria for inclusion in its first debate. Candidates need to get at least 1% support in three qualifying national surveys or in two national and two early-state surveys.

At least six contenders for the Republican presidential nomination are one step closer to qualifying for the first Republican primary debate in August, according to an NBC News analysis of polling data and campaign statements about their donor totals.

The six candidates who have almost met the polling and donor criteria to make the debate in Milwaukee next month are former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

In order to qualify for the Republican Party's first debate, which will be held Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, candidates have to hit a handful of different thresholds:

  • A minimum of 40,000 unique donors to the candidate's campaign (including 200 unique donors in 20 states and/or territories).
  • Poll at least 1% in three recognized national surveys or two national surveys and two early-state surveys, as long as those surveys meet the RNC's polling criteria.
  • Pledge to both support the party's eventual nominee and to not participate in a non-RNC sanctioned debate.

At least two surveys from Morning Consult and New Hampshire polling from the University of New Hampshire have been released so far and appear to meet the party's criteria.

The DeSantis, Trump and Haley campaigns confirmed to NBC News that they have met donor thresholds for the debate. Christie said the same in an interview on CNN and Scott told Fox News that he's met the threshold. Ramaswamy confirmed that he's surpassed the donor threshold on Twitter.

Former Vice President Mike Pence is close to reaching the polling threshold, hitting at least 1% support in three polls, but he has not yet met the donor threshold.

In an interview on Fox News Tuesday, Pence told the network, “We’ll easily qualify, but getting 40,000 donors in just a matter of a few short weeks is a bit of a challenge. We’re not offering -- we’re not offering gift cards. We’re not offering kickbacks. We’re not offering tickets to soccer games.”

Pence was referring to several other candidates, like Ramaswamy and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who have offered gift cards and other incentives for donating small amounts to their campaign.

Other candidates are short of the polling and donor thresholds, according to NBC News' analysis. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Burgum and former Texas Rep. Will Hurd have so far registered 1% in one poll. But Hurd has openly said he wouldn't pledge to support the nominee, citing his opposition to Trump.

Trump has already hinted that he will not attend next month's debate.

The RNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.