Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said Sunday he has qualified for the first GOP primary debate, which will take place Wednesday in Milwaukee. Hutchinson joined the crowd of White House hopefuls looking for a breakout moment on stage.
“I’m happy to announce that we’ve met all of the criteria set by the RNC going into the debate stage. We’ve met the poll criteria and now we’ve reached the 40,000 individual donor criteria,” Hutchinson said. CNN’s Kasie Hunt on “State of the Union.”
Hutchinson said he submitted 42,000 individual donors to the RNC.
To qualify for the debate, candidates must have at least 40,000 unique donors, with at least 200 unique donors per state, and must reach at least 1% in three national polls that meet of RNC requirements or at least 1% of two national polls and two polls from separate early voting states.
They are also expected to sign a pledge of allegiance expressing their commitment to unite and support the future Republican nominee, whoever that may be.
Hutchinson, a vocal critic of GOP frontrunner and former President Donald Trump, rejected the pledge, saying he didn’t think it should be a requirement to participate in the debates. But he told Hunt on Sunday that he would sign it, saying he was “confident that Donald Trump will not be the nominee.”
Hutchinson also said he expects the debate to be “more important without Donald Trump on stage because it’s the first time voters can compare the candidates and their positions.”
The former governor of Arkansas previously met the polling threshold but was delayed in meeting the donor’s requirement. His campaign announced Friday that it is raffling off movie tickets to attract enough contributors.
Hutchinson has been one of the most vocal critics of the RNC’s debate qualification rules and said last month that some of his fellow candidates’ inventive gambits to attract necessary donors “are -illustrate how absurd this whole concept is.”
Sunday’s announcement, which comes just days before the first GOP debate, will put Hutchinson on stage with six other qualified candidates.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and South Carolina Gov. Tim Scott is all qualified for now. Trump, who is leading the GOP race, is expected to skip the debate and sit down for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
In an interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta on Saturday, Hutchinson called Trump’s decision to skip the debate a “mistake.”
“It seems to me that he just said that I am more important than the debate. I’m more important than the party. I am more important than presenting and defending my position for the American people. I think it was a mistake on his part,” Hutchinson said.
This story has been updated with additional details.