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How the GOP field is growing ahead of the 2024 election

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The Republican presidential field is expanding. Three more candidates are expected to jump into the race next week, including a couple of very big names. Who are they, and what will this mean for voters' choices in next year's presidential election? The Republican National Committee this afternoon also announced the requirements for its first debate. Spoiler alert - those rules might keep some of these candidates off the stage. We are joined now by NPR's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Hey there.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: All right, Domenico. It is Friday, but it sounds like next week is going to be very busy in the political world. Can you just start by walking us through it all?

MONTANARO: Yeah, the campaign trail certainly has got a lot happening next week. I mean, on Sunday, we're going to see a town hall from Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor. And we haven't heard too much about her since she started running here because she's been overshadowed by some of the other candidates like Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor. On Tuesday, we expect to see Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, jump in the race again, as he ran in 2015 as well. On Wednesday, the former vice president, Mike Pence, is also expected to get in, as is North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, who many people may not have heard of or know, but he's actually a billionaire, so money is not going to be much of a problem for him throughout this campaign. And that would make nine major GOP candidates in this race, and this could expand even further. We're still waiting on other possibilities, like Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Liz Cheney, the former Wyoming congresswoman. And, you know, this could be a pretty crowded debate stage like we've seen in past years, if they all do make it.

SUMMERS: Yeah, that would. I mean, to that point, tell us about the criteria for who's actually going to be allowed on the debate stage for this first debate.

MONTANARO: Yeah, they announced that this first debate is August 23 in Milwaukee. We could have a second if the number looks - who qualify looks to be too many. And you might remember they did this in 2016.

SUMMERS: Yeah.

MONTANARO: And it looked sort of like a varsity and JV team, you know, thing. You know, still there's a lot of time, and, you know, there's - here are some of the things that we know that they're going to now be requiring There's a couple of things, polling and fundraising requirements. In polling, starting in July, these candidates will have to earn 1% in three national polls or two national polls and in two early states, they'll have to get 1% - Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. Fundraising - 40,000 donors total - that's a pretty big number, and they have to have 200 or more in at least 20 states, so pretty broad amount is what they want to see.

You know, this is key for someone like Chris Christie, who wants to go after Trump and do it on a big stage. And we know he's done it before. I mean, just ask Marco Rubio. And, you know, you can't just buy your way onto this debate stage. So thinking of people like Vivek Ramaswamy and Burgum, who, you know, have pretty limited national profiles but are wealthy. The RNC says that these measures could actually become more strict for future debates. Notably, they also have to sign a pledge of support for whomever wins the Republican nomination. Of course, that wouldn't stop Trump, for example, from saying he'll do that, but then not, or someone who doesn't like Trump from doing the same thing.

SUMMERS: OK, yeah. We're definitely going to be watching that. Speaking of Trump, though, we are really starting to see the war of words between Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, his chief rival, escalate over the past week. What is going on with those two?

MONTANARO: Yeah, they've spent tens of millions of dollars now on TV ads against each other and on the campaign trail, and they haven't been shy of attacking each other. You know, DeSantis has called Trump's nicknames for him petty and juvenile. He claims that Trump has moved left on immigration and spending, and all this is coming after DeSantis was essentially laying dormant while Trump bludgeoned him on the airwaves. DeSantis also making another really interesting argument that hasn't been heard much from other GOP candidates, and that's that Trump can only serve four more years if he does win. Here was Trump's response to that at an event in Iowa.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: You know, one of our opponents, they were out there saying that we can be there eight years, and it takes eight years. No, it takes six months to fix it or less.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: If you have to rely on somebody that needs eight years to fix it, then he's the wrong guy.

MONTANARO: You know, this is really something I've been wondering about. When would Republicans start to attack Trump on the fact that he can only serve four more years, limited to two terms by the 22nd Amendment? You know, if no incumbent runs in 2028, that really puts their party at a disadvantage.

SUMMERS: NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro, thanks so much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.