COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday that he has qualified for the first Republican debate of the 2024 presidential cycle, securing the required number of donors within two weeks of the candidates meeting in Milwaukee.
According to his campaign, Pence has amassed 40,000 unique backers, meeting the Republican National Committee’s demand for the final debate.
Pence becomes the eighth candidate to declare qualification for the first debate, joining former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former governor of New Jersey. Chris Christie and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.
Pence had long since met the RNC’s polling requirements for the Aug. 23 debate — at least 1% in three high-quality national polls or a mix of national and early state polls, between July 1 and Aug. 21 — but struggled to score the required number of donors.
Both Pence and his advisers had expressed confidence that he would meet that qualification, but his calls to raise funds intensified as the prospect loomed that he might not make the podium.
He received a boost in attention last week in the form of a recently unsealed federal indictment bringing criminal charges against Donald Trump in connection with the former president’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
To emphasize Pence’s central role in the case, the indictment was based in part on notes the then vice president kept of his conversations with Trump in the days leading up to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump tried to pressure Pence to join in his effort to keep the two men in power. In one episode, Trump allegedly told Pence that he was “too honest” for dismissing Trump’s false claims that Pence had the power to stop congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
Pence’s campaign marked a remarkable change in tone for a usually cautious candidate struggling to break through in a primary dominated by his former boss. Pence’s campaign seized the opportunity by offering new T-shirts and baseball caps for sale with the phrase “Too Honest.” in big red letters.
Trump, meanwhile, has wondered why he should participate in the debate, given his leading position in polls. He has floated the idea of holding a competition event of his own instead.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP