Seven Republican presidential candidates will face off in North Charleston Thursday night, the first debate for either party to be held in South Carolina and the sixth Republican debate overall.
The 9 p.m. debate will be at the North Charleston Performing Arts and is televised by Fox Business Network. Participating are feature current poll frontrunners real estate mogul Donald Trump and Texas US Sen. Ted Cruz, along with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida US Sen. Marco Rubio.
It will be moderated by FBN personalities Neil Cavuto and Maria Batiromo. To qualify for the debate, candidates had to either place in the top six average in recent national polls or in the top five average for polling in Iowa or New Hampshire. Candidates who did not meet the criteria will participate in an 6 p.m. event on the same stage, that pundits have frequently billed as the “undercard” debate.
— Those candidates whose poll averages were not strong enough to make the main debate were former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Kentucky US Sen. Rand Paul and former Pennsylvania US Sen. Rick Santorum. Fiorina, Huckabee and Santorum will take part in the 6 p.m. event, also televised by Fox Business Network.
However, Paul has refused to participate in the undercard debate, saying he “will not let the media decide the tiers of this race.” Paul claimed some polls have shown him in the top five nationally, or at least within the margin of error from several candidates who did make the final cut. It was the first time the Kentucky senator did not qualify for the primary debate.
GOP candidates will be debate in South Carolina again next month for a Feb. 13 date in Greenville.
— Several candidates will spend Thursday making campaign stops around the state prior to the FBN debate. Santorum and Huckabee participated in the Palmetto Senior Show at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds on Thursday morning. Fiorina held a town hall at the Charleston Crab House on James Island around noon and Santorum will also appear at a Conservative Leadership Project town hall at The Citadel military academy around 2:00 p.m.
— During a stop in Dorchester on Wednesday night, Cruz answered a New York Times report that claims he did not report a loan worth more than $1 million from his wife’s employer Goldman Sachs in his successful 2012 Senate campaign. The report states the loan was the majority of “personal funds” that Sen. Cruz and his wife placed into the Senate campaign. But the loan itself was never disclosed in filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which the Times notes is required by campaign finance laws.
In a brief gathering with reporters following his speech at The Gatherings, Cruz said he used a “margin loan like any brokerage account has” and borrowed “against the stocks and assets that we had.”
“Those loans have been disclosed over and over again on multiple filings,” he said in answer to a CNN question. “If it’s the case that they were not filed exactly as the FEC requires, then we’ll amend the filings. But all of the information has been public and transparent for many years. So that’s that.”
— Kasich seemed excited about his improved poll numbers in New Hampshire, telling an audience at a Charleston smokehouse Wednesday night that he could have a realistic shot at the GOP nomination with a win in the Granite State. Two new polls released this week show Kasich second among GOP voters in New Hampshire, a surprising jump after months with support hovering just above most polls’ margins of error.
— None of the Democratic candidates will appear in South Carolina Thursday, but the campaign for Vermont US Sen. Bernie Sanders will be in Orangeburg in the evening. The campaign will kick off a tour of historically-black colleges and universities with its first stop at SC State University around 6 p.m. Sanders himself will not appear, but noted philosopher and Union Theological Seminary professor Dr. Cornel West will act as surrogate on his behalf.
— Democrats will hold their own debate in Charleston on Sunday night. The 9 p.m. debate at the Gaillard Center will be televised by NBC News and sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.