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Asa Hutchinson appears to qualify for first GOP primary debate

Hutchinson joins nine other candidates who have hit the RNC's polling threshold, according to an NBC News analysis.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 28, 2023.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 28.Charlie Neibergall / AP file

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who's running for the GOP presidential nomination, appears to have met the Republican National Committee's qualifications to make this week's primary debate in Milwaukee.

Hutchinson’s campaign appeared to have fulfilled the RNC's polling threshold, according to an NBC News Political Unit analysis. But his campaign announced Sunday that it had also reached the minimum threshold of 40,000 unique donors to qualify for first debate Wednesday, sponsored by the RNC.

He’s also expected to sign the party’s pledge to support its eventual nominee, despite his repeated criticism of the pledge tied to his opposition to former President Donald Trump. 

In a statement his campaign shared Sunday, Hutchinson said: “I am thankful to the tens of thousands of Americans who have contributed to my campaign and helped ensure my message of consistent, commonsense, conservative leadership is represented on the debate stage this Wednesday evening.

"I intend to continue speaking the truth when it comes to the responsibility that Donald Trump bears for the attacks on our democracy and justice system. I look forward to a substantive debate in Milwaukee."

Nine other contenders appear to be cleared for the debate stage: , Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Michigan businessman Perry Johnson.

Trump has decided not to attend the debate this week and is seeking a sit-down interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson as counterprogramming, NBC News reported Friday, citing two sources familiar with his thinking.

Hutchinson, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump on the campaign trail, said that although Trump is in the “default position,” he thinks that voters are open-minded and willing to weigh alternatives and that they will use the debate to explore other options.

“People are looking for that debate as an opportunity to contrast the candidates. The first time, here in Iowa, New Hampshire, all across the country,” Hutchinson said. “That’s their first way to measure the candidates side by side. So it’s important.”

Candidates have until Monday night to certify they’ve hit the party’s criteria, and it’s unclear whether any other candidates will do so before that deadline.

The field won’t be set until the RNC officially certifies which candidates have qualified — the NBC News Political Unit has analyzed party criteria to see which candidates appear to have met the party’s polling and fundraising thresholds.