It’s Republican Debate Day in America

The Fiserv Forum in preparations for the Republican presidential debate on August 22, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Happy Wednesday! The first Republican presidential debate of the 2024 cycle is tonight in Milwaukee, airing on Fox News and Fox Business at 9 p.m. ET. Semafor’s Dave Weigel asks a good question: What “show of hands” question should the GOP candidates get asked tonight? Sound off in the comments.

Up to Speed

  • Here’s the official lineup for tonight’s debate, from left to right looking at the stage: former Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, and Gov. Doug Burgum.
  • One little hiccup in that lineup: CNN’s Dana Bash reported this morning that Burgum was taken to the emergency room last night after suffering an injury during a pickup basketball game with his staff. It’s unclear as of this writing whether the North Dakota governor will make it to the stage tonight. Drama!
  • Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, will not be in Milwaukee tonight. Instead, he will appear in a pre-taped interview with Tucker Carlson that will be released on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. The Washington Post reports that the interview had been in the works “informally” for two months. “Trump did not officially tell RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel of his decision to not appear onstage until Sunday, even after word of the Carlson interview had become public,” the Post reports.
  • Meanwhile, the pro-Trump super PAC MAGA Inc. is dubbing tonight’s event the “vice presidential debate” and has created a website featuring unflattering information about each of the participants in Milwaukee.
  • Rep. James Comer, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has been leading the congressional investigation into Hunter Biden. Now, the Kentucky congressman is pitching small-dollar donors on his investigative work, in particular the committee’s discovery that Joe Biden used a pseudonymous email address during his vice presidency. “The walls are closing in on Joe and I need your support now more than ever,” Comer writes in a recent fundraising email.
  • Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida has finally drawn a Democratic challenger in his bid for reelection next year. Former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell told Politico Tuesday she is running against the well-funded Republican senator, who was first elected in 2018 after serving two terms as Florida’s governor. After narrowly winning her South Florida House district in 2018, Mucarsel-Powell was defeated for reelection in 2020. The Sunshine State has been increasingly hostile to Democratic candidates—in the last decade, just one Democrat has won a statewide election in Florida. “I don’t make any assumptions or underestimate how difficult it is going to be,” Mucarsel-Powell told Politico.

RNC Members Reflect on Trump’s Absence: ‘You Need to Show Up’

MILWAUKEE—With tonight’s first GOP presidential debate fast approaching, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel is doing her best to bat away questions about why the frontrunner and former President Donald Trump is MIA. 

But some RNC members who spoke with The Dispatch are being more candid about their frustrations with Trump’s decision to snub one of the most important party-sponsored events of the Republican nominating process.

“Like Ronna, I would prefer that he be here,” says Iowa’s RNC committeeman Steve Scheffler. “I’m not gonna condemn him. But if you want the votes of Iowans, you need to show up.”

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