Former President Donald Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have qualified for CNN's Republican presidential primary debate in Iowa on Wednesday. The debate is a final opportunity for candidates to make an impression in front of a national audience before voting begins.
Haley and DeSantis said they will attend the debate at Drake University in Des Moines at 9 p.m. ET. Trump, who has skipped the first four GOP primary debates in 2024 and is leading in other fields, will participate in a Fox News town hall in Iowa on Jan. 10.
Days before the Iowa caucuses kick off the GOP's nominating contest, it will be a showdown between two candidates vying to emerge as the party's lone, clear-cut replacement for the former president.
DeSantis' path to the GOP nomination depends on a strong showing in Iowa's Jan. 15 caucuses. Haley, meanwhile, is rising in the polls in New Hampshire, where a strong performance in the Jan. 23 primary could prove a boost ahead of her home state's Feb. 24 primary.
On the campaign trail in recent days, DeSantis has repeatedly criticized Trump for refusing to participate in GOP primary debates.
“He's not ready to come in here and answer questions,” DeSantis told reporters last week in Elkater, Iowa. “I think he's going to parachute into a 30-, 45-minute, hour-long speech and listen to Iowans answer questions about what he needs to do to win.”
CNN's Iowa debate will be moderated by CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.
To be eligible to participate in the Iowa Debate, According to the network, candidates must receive at least 10% of Republican caucuses or primary voters in three separate national and/or Iowa polls that meet CNN standards for reporting. One of the three polls must be an authorized CNN poll of Iowa Republicans. The qualifying window for polls to count the Iowa debate ended at noon Tuesday.
Three incumbent candidates who have appeared on stage in some of the previous debates — businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson — did not meet those eligibility requirements.
CNN will cover a second debate in New Hampshire on Jan. 21 at New England College, before that state's primary. The place was originally announced as St. Anselm's College.
CNN's Kit Maher reported for this post.