GOP primary candidates take the stage

Hours before debate starts, Trump campaign declares victory

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump carry signs around the Fiserv Forum on August 23, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Win Mcnamee | Getty Images

Around noon ET on Wednesday, hours before the first Republican debate was set to begin, the Trump campaign declared victory in the spar he isn’t participating in.

“President Trump has already won this evening’s debate because everything is going to be about him,” Trump campaign senior advisor Chris LaCivita said in a statement. “Only President Trump has the policy ideas, the fortitude, and the polling to go head-to-head with Crooked Joe Biden in the general election.”

LaCivita said the number of times Trump’s name was mentioned during the debate would be counted as his speaking time.

“When the other candidates do get a chance to speak, they will be a faint echo, or maybe even a copycat, of President Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda.”

LaCivita closed by saying the event “really shouldn’t even be called a debate” but was more of an audition to be part of Trump’s team.

Emma Kinery

How did the candidates qualify for the debate?

Candidates needed to meet the threshold set by the Republican National Committee in order to qualify for the debate.

Those benchmarks include at least 40,000 individual campaign donations and meeting the polling qualifications, either 1% in three different national polls, or 1% in two national polls and 1% in another poll from an early state like Iowa.

In order to participate candidates also needed to sign a pledge of support to whomever gets the party’s nomination. Donald Trump, who is the frontrunner in the race, has refused to sign the pledge.

In an interview with Newsmax, Trump was adamant he would not sign the pledge, saying “Why would I sign it? I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president. So right there, there’s a problem.”

Emma Kinery

How to watch the first Republican presidential debate

Workers make preparations outside the debate hall for Republican U.S. presidential candidates to gather for their first primary debate of the 2024 presidential campaign in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 22, 2023.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The debate will start at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday in Wisconsin, a battleground state, at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum.

Fox News is hosting the first GOP presidential debate in the leadup to the primaries, with network hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum at the moderating table. The debate will be available across all platforms operated by the Fox News network, including Fox Business Network, Fox News Digital, Fox’s website, the Fox Nation streaming service as well as Fox News Audio.

— Amanda Macias