Updated Aug 8, 2023, 4:22pm EDT
politicsNorth America

Here’s the format for the first RNC debate

Ron DeSantis
REUTERS/Reba Saldanha/File Photo

Sign up for Semafor Principals: What the White House is reading. Read it now.

Title icon

The Scoop

Republican presidential candidates have received the format for the first RNC debate of the season.

Hosted by Fox News in Milwaukee, the Aug. 23 debate will begin at 9 p.m. ET and is set to run for around two hours, according to a copy of the format that was obtained by Semafor. Candidates will not be allowed to give an opening statement, though they will have 45 seconds for closing remarks. Throughout the debate, they’ll be given one minute to answer a question and an additional 30 seconds for “follow-ups.”

Some of the questions will “involve sound or video, including pre-taped questions submitted by students” via the Young America’s Foundation, which is partnering with the network to host the debate.

Title icon

Know More

Fox News is also offering candidates an “exclusive opportunity” to participate in what’s being billed as “a marketing shoot” with the network. This shoot will be done “on site” before Wednesday’s debate.

“The shoot involves both video & still shots that FOX will use to present candidates in a bigger, bolder way on the network throughout the campaign cycle,” the network told campaigns.


Currently, eight presidential candidates have qualified for the first debate: Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie, and Doug Burgum.

Trump has signaled he is unlikely to attend, writing on Truth Social at the end of July: “Let them debate so I can see who I MIGHT consider for Vice President!”

A contentious qualification to attend this year’s debate is that presidential hopefuls have to sign an RNC pledge to support whoever the eventual nominee is.

Fox News anchors Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier are moderating the debate.