Currently, seven people have formally announced they are running for the Republican presidential nomination:
Three more are likely to announce soon:
One more, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA), might wait for one more to show up (e.g., Chris Sununu) and then jump in himself to make a dirty dozen. This is going to give RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel a queen-size headache. In 2016, there were so many candidates that the RNC had to divide them into two groups, the grown-ups and the kiddies, and put them at separate tables and have them debate separately. We are almost at the point of no return this time as well. If all 10 of the candidates in the two lists above go for it, that will be a 9-man, 1-woman debate. If it lasts 90 minutes, everyone will get 9 minutes on average. That's not much time for any of the less-well-known candidates to break through. If a dozen or more candidates are in by August, when the debate is scheduled (in Milwaukee), having all of them on stage at once is just not going to work.
Consequently, McDaniel is going to be forced to have some algorithm for separating the sheep from the goats. She probably doesn't want this particular assignment, since it will lead to some unhappy goats braying at her, but she probably can't avoid it. In 2015, the ten candidates who were polling the highest made the prime time debate and all the rest were sent to the kiddies table. To make the cut then, a candidate had to be averaging about 3% in major polls.
McDaniel is now holding discussions with at least some of the campaigns about this year's rules. One possibility being bandied about is a minimum of 1% in the polls but also some minimum number of donors, say 50,000. Additionally, a criterion could be some minimum (e.g. 200) donors in each of at least 20 states, to prevent regional candidates with no national base from getting on stage. So far no decision has been made, but to be fair to the candidates, one is needed soon so they can know whether they should prioritize moving up in the polls or attracting donors from many states. If the latter is the case, lesser-known candidates may have to spend time in states they might not otherwise have gone to, just to get enough donors from there. Tim Scott, welcome to California!
One cloud hanging over the first debate is whether Donald Trump will show up. He will certainly meet all the criteria, but he has threatened not to take part. Some strategists think that skipping the debate would make him look cowardly and also cause him to miss an opportunity to present himself to independent voters. But this is the kind of decision Trump makes on his own, consulting only his gut. It is similar to the ancient Roman way of examining the entrails of a goat before making major decisions, except no sacrifice is needed, just an MRI scan. (V)