What to know about CNN's Republican presidential debate ahead of Iowa caucuses

Primary voting begins in less than a week.

BySarah Beth Hensley ABCNews logo
Wednesday, January 10, 2024
GOP candidates campaign in Iowa ahead of caucuses
Trump is still the far and away frontrunner -- with the Iowa caucuses now less than two weeks away.

CNN is set to host the next debate in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, just days ahead of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Monday.

The debate, the first of two that will be hosted by CNN, is set for Wednesday night in Des Moines, Iowa.

MORE: Here's who's running for president in 2024 and who has dropped out

With more stringent qualifications, even fewer candidates are expected to appear on the stage. Front-runner Donald Trump, again, isn't set to attend.

Here's what to know.

How to watch the debate

The debate, which will take place at 9 p.m. ET at Drake University, will be streamed live on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Español and CNN Max and for pay TV subscribers on CNN.com as well as CNN-connected TV and mobile devices.

The debate will be moderated by CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.

ABC News will provide key takeaways while 538 has a preview of why it matters.

Who will participate?

On Tuesday, CNN announced the GOP primary candidates who qualified for the debate: former President Trump, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Trump, who has not participated in any of the previous GOP presidential primary debates in light of his enduring polling lead, is not expected to join this one either. Instead, he is countering the debate with a Fox News live town hall in Des Moines at the same time as the CNN debate -- so the stage will be occupied by only Haley and DeSantis.

The qualifying window for CNN's Iowa debate closed on Tuesday. Tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not meet the qualification requirements.

How did candidates qualify?

To make the stage, candidates needed to receive at least 10% (without rounding) in three separate national and/or Iowa polls of Republican caucusgoers or primary voters that met CNN's standards for reporting. One of the three qualifying polls must have been an approved poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers.

The CNN qualification criteria for candidates to participate in the debate are higher than those used in previous Republican National Committee debates.

That previous threshold allowed Ramaswamy and Christie to join in on the fourth GOP debate.

CNN is hosting? What about the RNC debates?

The RNC previously required candidates to sign a pledge that they would not participate in any debates not sanctioned by the RNC. However, in December, the RNC changed course, saying that candidates would be free to participate in other debates going forward.

"We have held four successful debates across the country with the most conservative partners in the history of a Republican primary. We have no RNC debates scheduled in January and any debates currently scheduled are not affiliated with the RNC," the RNC's Committee on Presidential Debates said in a statement to Politico. "It is now time for Republican primary voters to decide who will be our next President and candidates are free to use any forum or format to communicate to voters as they see fit."

When are other debates?

ABC News, partnering with WMUR, will host a Republican primary debate in New Hampshire ahead of the state's primary contest.

The ABC News and WMUR debate will take place Jan. 18 at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

To earn a spot on that stage, candidates will either have to finish in the top three in the Iowa caucuses or receive at least 10% in two separate national polls of Republican primary voters or at least 10% in two separate New Hampshire polls of Republican primary voters that that meet ABC's standards for reporting.

CNN will host another debate on Jan. 21 at the New England College in New Hampshire.

To qualify for CNN's New Hampshire debate, candidates must receive at least 10% in three separate national and/or New Hampshire polls of Republican primary voters that meet CNN's standards for reporting. One of the three polls must be an approved CNN poll of likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters.