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Everything you need to know about the Republican presidential debate, including how to watch

5 candidates will take the stage Wednesday in Miami. Trump, again, will be absent

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Republican presidential candidates stand at their podiums during a Republican presidential primary debate.

Republican presidential candidates, from left, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former Vice President Mike Pence, stand at their podiums during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by Fox Business Network and Univision, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

Republican candidates converge on Miami for the third debate of the 2024 election cycle Wednesday. And for the third time, former President Donald Trump — the front-runner — will not be present.

Trump, who lives in southern Florida, will host a campaign rally blocks from the debate venue in Miami. Meanwhile, five other candidates will debate why they are the best poised to take down Trump — who maintains a commanding lead in national polls.

Aggregate polling averages from FiveThirtyEight show Trump ahead by over 40 percentage points in national polls. In critical early-voting states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, Trump leads big.

To qualify for the third debate, candidates needed to poll above 4% in at least two national polls, or above 4% in one national poll and two polls from early voting states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina). In addition, candidates must have at least 70,000 unique donors.

All debate participants have pledged to support the eventual Republican nominee, whoever that will be.

Who will participate in the debate?

  • Ron DeSantis, Florida governor.
  • Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor.
  • Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador.
  • Vivek Ramaswamy, entrepreneur.
  • Tim Scott, U.S. senator from South Carolina.

Two candidates who participated in the second debate in September did not qualify for this one:

  • Doug Burgum, governor of North Dakota.
  • Mike Pence, former vice president.

What is going on in the presidential race?

Haley is surging. While Trump continues to lead the field by a wide margin, the fastest-rising candidate is Haley. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll this week showed her as the most potent candidate to beat President Joe Biden in six swing states. Another poll in September, from CNN, showed her as the only GOP candidate capable of defeating Biden in a hypothetical general election. Whether she gets there, though, is the question. She’s ticking up in primary polls, including in her home state of South Carolina, where she’s now the clear No. 2 behind Trump. And now that the war in Israel has centered foreign policy as a leading issue, her expertise — as the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. — could be a positive for potential voters.

DeSantis, reloading? Once considered Trump’s most formidable challenger, DeSantis has faltered in recent months, falling in national polls from the mid-30s to the low-teens. But he caught a huge break this week when Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed him, breaking a longstanding tradition of neutrality from the early-voting-state governor. “We need someone who will fight for you, who puts this country first and not himself,” Reynolds said. Is it too little, too late?

The stage is shrinking. Two weeks ago, former Vice President Mike Pence dropped out of the race, saying “this is not my time.” Two weeks earlier, Will Hurd suspended his campaign, throwing his support behind Haley. A growing chorus of conservative pundits — from George Will to David Brooks — have echoed the call to back Haley, some even pointing at Tim Scott to be the next candidate to drop out. As the field narrows, will any consolidation behind a single candidate take place? Or will the challengers continue to fight among themselves like in 2016, allowing Trump to cruise to the nomination?

How to watch or stream

  • Date and time: Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. MST
  • TV: NBC
  • Stream: NBC News Now and NBCNews.com