While it still remains to be seen which candidates officially qualified for the debate — the Republican National Committee is expected to confirm attendees Monday, Sept. 25 — at least four will be in Anaheim later in the week for the California Republican Party’s fall convention: former President Donald Trump, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.
Trump will also be in Costa Mesa on Saturday, Sept. 30 for a fundraiser. Former Vice President Mike Pence has a reception on the books in Anaheim on Thursday.
But before all that, the presidential primary debate kicks off Wednesday, Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, a popular setting for Republicans.
“The Reagan Library is always an attractive venue for Republican debates, in part because it is a great space but also because Ronald Reagan’s legacy still has pull within the Republican ranks,” said Matthew Beckmann, a political science professor at UC Irvine with expertise in presidential politics. “Of course, that presidential candidates can use the trip to fundraise in Southern California doesn’t hurt.”
The threshold to qualify for this debate — to be broadcast on Fox Business Network and Univision from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. — was raised from the previous contest.
Candidates need at least 3% in two national polls or will need 3% in one national poll as well as two polls from four of the early voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. And their donors must include 50,000 unique contributors with 200 of those coming from 20 states.
DeSantis, Pence, Ramaswamy, Scott and Trump, as well as former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, appear likely to have qualified.
Trump, who sat out the first debate, will be speaking to auto workers in Detroit instead. His contentious history with the Reagan Library aside, Trump is looking more to the 2024 general election rather than the primary.
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California Republicans will still hear from Trump as he’s scheduled to address a luncheon at the convention on Friday. The event — with tickets ranging from $500-$600 — is already sold out.
Scott will speak around 3 p.m. Friday, and DeSantis is slated to headline a dinner banquet later that evening. Ramaswamy leads a reception and lunch banquet on Saturday.
“All eyes will be on California next week as our state hosts the second GOP presidential debate in my hometown of Simi Valley and on the hallowed grounds of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,” said CAGOP Chair Jessica Millan Patterson. “With 169 delegates up for grabs — the most of any state — California will play a pivotal role in deciding our party’s nominee.”
While in Southern California, the presidential contenders would be wise to “understand the electorate and strike a balance of fiscal conservatism, an acknowledgment of the environment (and) climate change and avoid the cultural wedges,” like LGBTQ+ rights and abortion, said Matt Lesenyie, a Cal State Long Beach political science professor.
Voters, he said, are less concerned with “the controversy of the day” but want to hear more “plain-spoken, common sense-sounding solutions and the hope for bipartisanship.”
“A big piece will be how (candidates) talk about why Republicans believe the government should shut down later this month,” said Lesenyie, who interned for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “California voters are probably also listening for solutions to Hollywood and auto labor negotiations.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.