Fourth US Republican presidential debate: Who will attend, where to watch

DeSantis and Haley are in a tussle for runners-up while Trump remains a favourite for the Republican nomination.

Republican presidential candidates at their podiums in front of a large blue screen that reads debate in white
Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley are vying to emerge as the principal challengers to former US President Donald Trump's candidacy for the Republican nomination [File: Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo]

The Republican party’s candidates for the 2024 United States presidential election will take the stage for a fourth debate on Wednesday after tense exchanges on immigration, abortion and Israel’s war on Gaza in the previous debates.

The debates are a chance for the candidates to contest each other’s views before primary election polls determine the face of the Republican party in the US presidential elections scheduled for January 15, 2024.

Four Republican candidates are vying to be the party’s nominees, with former US President Donald Trump remaining the frontrunner as per the opinion polls. Trump, who has a 40 percentage points lead in the race, has not participated in any of the debates so far.

Here is what to expect from the fourth Republican debate.

When and where is it?

The debate will be held at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa city at 7pm (01:00 GMT) on Wednesday. Alabama is a solidly Republican-leaning state and winning support there will be vital for any presumptive nominee from the party.

Who is hosting and streaming the debate?

The debate is being hosted by NewsNation, a subscription-based television network, along with conservative political journal The Washington Free Beacon and The Megyn Kelly Show on Sirius XM. The debate will also be run on Rumble, a video-hosting service popular with conservatives.

NewsNation will livestream the debate on their website and broadcast it to television news channels, while Rumble will stream it natively – unlike the first three debates which were hosted by major news networks Fox and NBC.

Several people from the host organisations will moderate the debate, including Elizabeth Vargas, the anchor of NewsNation’s Elizabeth Vargas Reports; Megyn Kelly, host of The Megyn Kelly Show; and Eliana Johnson, editor-in-chief of The Washington Free Beacon.

Who will participate?

Candidate dropouts and Trump’s clear stance on not attending has left the battle between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina was present until the third debate but dropped out four days later on November 13.

Doug Burgum, governor of North Dakota, failed to qualify for the fourth debate and then dropped out of the race entirely on Monday.

While Trump is leading, DeSantis and Haley are competing for second place in the primary election polls. Primary elections occur in the lead-up to a presidential election and allow voters to indicate their preferred party candidate. Primary elections are organised by the political parties.

How are debate participants decided?

The Republican National Committee (RNC) determines who speak sat each debate by checking if they meet certain predetermined criteria.

This debate required that participants have a minimum of 80,000 unique donors, at least 200 of which must be from 20 states or territories. Candidates also had to garner at least 6 percent in a specific set of qualifying national polls.

In line with conditions of past debates, candidates also had to sign the “Beat Biden” pledge, promising to support the eventual presidential nominee.

Burgum, who only qualified for the first two debates, called out the RNC’s tightening criteria for the debates for “taking the power of democracy away from the engaged, thoughtful citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire,” the first two states in the primary calendar.

Why is Trump not attending the debate?

Trump already has a strong lead in the polls to fall back on and also said the party should focus on the general elections.

Additionally, he has refused to sign the “Beat Biden” pledge or support any other nominee.

At the time of previous debates, he held his own public events as an alternative but will attend a fundraiser in Florida this time.

Is the debate important?

The debate is coming in the lead-up to the Iowa Caucuses on January 15, 2024 – the first contest of the primary elections.

Owing to Trump’s strong lead in the polls and the little impact debates have historically had on reshaping the race, candidates have a tight space to manoeuvre.

DeSantis is ahead of Haley in most national surveys but has stalled while Haley has been rising in opinion polls over recent months.

Ramaswamy made a mark in his first debate but he has slipped in the opinion polls since.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies