The list of attendees for the first GOP presidential primary debate keeps getting longer. Former vice president Mike Pence has apparently just succeeded in reaching the 40,000 unique donor milestone, granting him a spot in Milwaukee on August 23 alongside Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie and a governor from one of the Dakotas (not the one you like looking at). Trump may or may not attend, but whatever he chooses, Cockburn expects him to be at the center of the debate.
The RNC also gave candidates some prompts about what to expect: some pre-taped questions from student members of the Young America’s Foundation, one minute for answers, thirty seconds for follow-ups, forty-five seconds for closing statements, no opening statements.
There were questions as to whether Pence would manage to reach the necessary donor numbers, though he has comfortably hit the polling requirements. Access to the spotlight will provide the former VP — one of the only candidates willing to consistently go after Trump, along with Christie — with a critical opportunity to make his conservative, anti-Trump case to the GOP. What’s more is that Pence did not resort to elaborate financial hijinks to qualify.
The same cannot be said of the Dakota governor — Dan Bigum… Douglas Borg… Doug Burgum! Cockburn may not know much about Burgum, but he did enjoy the governor’s ploy to reach 40,000 donors. Given the lack of name recognition, Burgum figured that the only way to get donors was to buy them. Each new donor who gave $1 would receive a $20 gift card — just enough for Cockburn to buy a decent eighteen-pack of beer! Burgum used the same strategy to hit his polling numbers. The governor, a billionaire, dumped a flood of cash into Iowa and New Hampshire advertisements. Apparently it worked.
A similar strategy has yet to succeed for Miami mayor Francis Suarez, whose efforts are even more drastic. The mayor held a raffle for tickets to see soccer star Lionel Messi on the field, offered a similar $1 for $20 scheme, and is accepting money through various non-traditional methods, such as bitcoin and Venmo. Though he says he reached the 40,000 donors, his polling numbers are still far behind what he needs: 1 percent in three national polls, or two and an early primary state poll with more than 800 participants. Suarez still has time, but the clock is ticking. Misleadingly, his super PAC SOS America sent out an email blast this afternoon “congratulating” Suarez for “hitting RNC debate thresholds.” Only lower down does it mention that he hasn’t hit all of them.
The GOP is upping the ante for the second debate, however, which will surely require some candidates to contrive even more creative ideas to reach the thresholds. NBC reports that candidates must have 50,000 unique donors, alongside polling numbers of 3 percent in two national polls or one national and two early primary state polls. Cockburn will be keeping his eyes open for any potentially lucrative opportunities. Maybe Burgum or Suarez could help fund a $1 happy hour in the District?