Jul 7, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis says he'll debate "regardless" of whether Trump shows up

epublican presidential candidate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, joined by his wife Casey and their children, walks in a Fourth of July parade on July 4, 2023, in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis walks in a Fourth of July parade on July 4, 2023, in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he is planning to be at the first Republican presidential debate next month, regardless of whether former President Trump participates.

Why it matters: It's the most definitive commitment from the Florida governor, who previously sidestepped questions about whether he would take the stage.

  • DeSantis' remarks also suggest that he plans to sign the Republican National Committee pledge to support the eventual nominee, which is a requirement to make the first debate stage and has drawn criticism from some candidates.

Driving the news: "I'll be there, regardless," DeSantis told Fox News on Thursday.

  • "I hope everybody who is eligible comes," he said.
  • "I think it is an important part of the process, and I look forward to being able to be on the stage and introducing our candidacy and our vision and our leadership to a wide audience."
  • DeSantis previously would not say whether he would support the former president if he is the Republican nominee.

The big picture: It's not yet clear who will participate in the RNC's first debate on Aug. 23, which also requires that candidates receive contributions from at least 40,000 individual donors.

  • Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP primary, has not committed to participating.
  • Candidates must also poll above 1% in three high-quality national polls, or a mix of national and early-state polls.
  • In addition to Trump and DeSantis, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and businessman and author Vivek Ramaswamy told the Associated Press that they have qualified for next month's debate.

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