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How to watch the first GOP presidential debate tonight

<strong>Clockwise:</strong> Tim Scott, Ron DeSantis, Asa Hutchinson, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Doug Burgum, Chris Christie, Mike Pence
Jacquelyn Martin/AP; Octavio Jones/Getty Images; Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg; Mark Makela/Getty Images; Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images; Dan Keock/Reuters; Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Clockwise: Tim Scott, Ron DeSantis, Asa Hutchinson, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Doug Burgum, Chris Christie, Mike Pence

Follow the latest updates on the first Republican debate via NPR's digital live coverage.

Republicans are looking at a crowded field to challenge President Biden for the 2024 presidential election and most will face off on a Milwaukee stage Wednesday night for the first GOP debate.

Late Monday the Republican National Committee confirmed the names of eight presidential candidates who will participate. But one key front runner, former President Donald Trump, has chosen not to attend.

The location — Wisconsin, one of the most contested states in the country — will take center stage as the 2024 contest ramps up. The closely split state is expected to continue to be a focus for both parties.

Here's everything you need to know about the first GOP debate:

When and where to watch

The first presidential debate with air on Fox News and the Fox Business Network. Viewers can also watch it on Fox Nation streaming and digital platforms – as well as on Rumble, a video sharing platform with a primarily right-wing audience. The two-hour forum begins at 9 p.m. ET and will be moderated by Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

You can follow live blog updates and analysis from our reporters on NPR.org.

Who will be there? And who won't?

Eight of the 14 candidates for the GOP nomination for president will take the stage. These candidates had to meet criteria set by the RNC. They had to reach specific polling numbers and donor metrics in addition to meeting Federal Election Committee deadlines. They also had to sign a pledge agreeing to support the eventual party nominee.

Gov. Doug Burgum The North Dakota Gov. has cut taxes, rolled back transgender rights and is expected to emphasize his small-town roots.

Gov. Chris Christie — The former New Jersey governor is launching another bid for the Republican nomination. Christie hasbeen expected to position himself as the conservative alternative to Trump after breaking ties with the former president following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Gov. Ron DeSantis The Florida governor has been at the center of Trump attack ads and also faced Republican criticism over laws signed in the state to limit abortion access and his response to immigration.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley — Haley was the ambassador to the United Nations under Trump and was the first to challenge the former president.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson — The former Arkansas governor is looking to appeal to Republican-leaning independents, as he's standing against the "chaos" of Trump and has criticized the former president because of his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Vice President Mike Pence — Pence has a strong appeal to white Christian evangelicals, a sizable portion of the Republican base. He has also denounced the former president's involvement in attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. Pencespecifically criticized Trump's pressure for him to refuse to count certain Electoral College votes, a theory that Pence rejected as unconstitutional.

Vivek Ramaswamy — He is among the younger GOP candidates. The former tech and finance executive has been a prominent voice in conservative circles, arguing against the environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement and against "woke"-ism.

Sen. Tim Scott Another South Carolina contender, Scott brings a diverse background and upbringing to the white-dominated Republican party.

Trump is eligible but choosing not to attend, despite being the current front runner for the nomination. He announced on Sunday via his social media platform Truth Social that he would not be participating.

Not eligible for the debate are: Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, former Texas Congressman Will Hurd, conservative talk show host Larry Elder and Texas pastor Ryan Binkley.

What is Trump doing instead?

Trump said he's going to skip Wednesday's debate in favor of an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, despite a push from the television network to get the front runner to participate.

"The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had," he said in his post, referencing high polling numbers. "I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!"

The former president already taped the interview with Carlson,according to CNN, and it will air at 8:55 p.m. ET on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Trump's counterprogramming also comes on the week he is expected to voluntarily surrender at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, where he faces 13 felony counts related to efforts to overturn the state's 2020 presidential election results.

Despite four indictments in less than six months, a majority of Republican voters say they prefer Trump to be the GOP nominee, according to the latest polling. Still, with most Americans, which includes independent voters, Trump remains largely unpopular.

What will Democrats be up to?

On Tuesday, the Biden-Harris campaign announcedits first state-specific ad in Wisconsin as a part of a 16-week, $25 million ad campaign in battleground states. The campaign is also touting this as the "largest and earliest media buy for a reelection campaign into constituency media ever" and the campaign's first investment in Hispanic and African American media.

The Democratic National Committee is also preparing to live tweet the debate and to dispatch surrogates to television networks the next day.

What comes next?

The second GOP debate will take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Sept. 27 in Simi Valley, Calif. FOX Business, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, Univision and Rumble are partners with the RNC for the event.

The qualifications toparticipate in this second event will be higher than the first, including higher polling numbers and a greater amount of unique donors, according to the Associated Press.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.