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Mike Pence seeks to assure donors he will qualify for RNC debates

Trump's GOP rivals react to Jan. 6 indictment
Trump's 2024 GOP rivals issue range of statements after Jan. 6 indictment 06:58

Former Vice President Mike Pence sought to assure major campaign donors on a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon that he will qualify for the Republican National Committee debate stage in three weeks, as he struggles to reach the donation threshold. 

"We're not there yet," Pence admitted on the call with about 50 donors. "Even $1 from friends or adult family members will help us reach that goal just a little bit quicker."

In order to qualify for the first debate, coming up on Aug. 23, candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination must meet fundraising and polling requirements, registering at least 1% support in three national polls or 1% in two national polls and in two early-state polls from separate states that are recognized by the RNC.

Pence cleared the polling threshold. However, the RNC also requires "a minimum of 40,000 unique donors to candidate's principal presidential campaign committee (or exploratory committee), with at least 200 unique donors per state or territory in 20+ states and/or territories." 

The campaign assesses it has "well over 30,000 donors," and has been averaging "more than 1,000 new donors every day." 

The former vice president told donors that his campaign is confident they will reach the donor threshold within the next seven to 10 days. 

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Mike Pence speaks at the Clinton County GOP Hog Roast on July 30, 2023, in Clinton, Iowa.  / Getty Images

The first debate, hosted by Fox News, will be held in in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So far, seven other GOP contenders have qualified for the debate stage. 

Former President Donald Trump, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley have all met the requirements, although Trump has not confirmed if he plans to participate.

Pence's team is also confident that his donation spree will qualify him for the second debate on Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The RNC elevated the qualifications for that entry significantly, requiring at least 50,000 unique donors. 

Candidates must also sign a pledge committing support to the eventual GOP nominee and agreeing not to participate in any non-RNC-sanctioned debates. 

On the call with supporters, Pence also addressed the latest indictment against his former running mate and current rival, Donald Trump. Trump was charged Tuesday with four federal counts related to alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. 

"I know by God's grace on that tragic day of January 6 that I did my duty under the Constitution and the laws of this country," Pence said. "I said again today that President Trump was wrong when he demanded that I put him over my oath to the Constitution. I'll never waver in that." 

"Anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president," Pence said, adding that he hoped "it wouldn't come to this." 

Pence told donors that he has "real differences" with Trump and others on the debate stage, including his support for sending military assistance to Ukraine amid Russia's invasion, and what Pence called "common-sense reforms of entitlements for younger Americans." 

"Donald Trump's position is identical to Joe Biden's; he won't even talk about common-sense reforms of Social Security and Medicare for younger Americans and frankly, on the right to life," Pence said. 

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