First Republican debate LIVE updates: GOP candidates take the stage at 9pm while Donald Trump skips the showdown

Eight Republican candidates are going up against each other Wednesday evening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the first GOP debate of the 2024 primary election cycle. 

The candidates, however, are essentially battling it out for second place. 

Meanwhile, frontrunner Donald Trump is running counter programming with a sit-down with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson airing at the same time the debate kicks off – 9:00 p.m. ET. 

Fox is hosting the debate at Fiserv Forum arena in Milwaukee with moderators Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier. 

Candidates participating are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. 

Three other candidates – Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, businessman Perry Johnson and radio host Larry Elder – claim they met the requirements to be on stage, but were not included in the RNC lineup released Monday night. 

Follow along with’s live updates of the first 2024 Republican presidential debate.  

Team Biden rips ‘softball’ Trump Carlson interview that will promote ‘conspiracy theories’

President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign ripped Donald Trump’s ‘softball’ interview with Tucker Carlson before it aired Wednesday.

‘In his softball ‘interview’ posting tonight, Donald Trump will again make clear that he’s running on the same extreme and deeply unpopular MAGA agenda the American people have rejected time and time again,’ Biden’s campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz said.

‘Instead of explaining his broken promises to Wisconsin… we’ll likely hear him double down on his most out-of-touch positions, including his support for wild, debunked conspiracy theories.’

The statement came after Carlson tweeted out a ‘debate night’ image of himself and Trump at the ex-President’s private Bedminster, New Jersey club.

Munoz also said, ‘That same extreme and unpopular agenda will be on display in Milwaukee later tonight by MAGA Republican candidates doing their best impressions of Donald Trump. The American people rejected these extreme ideas in 2018, 2020, and 2022 – and they will again in November 2024.’

Tucker Carlson@TuckerCarlsonDonald Trump. Tucker Carlson.Debate Night in Bedminster

Tucker Carlson questions Trump: Why aren’t you at the debate tonight?

Tucker Carlson released a highlight video of his upcoming interview with Donald Trump meant to run as counterprogramming to the first Republican debate on Wednesday evening.

The debate kicks-off at 9:00 p.m. ET, but Trump’s pre-recorded interview will start five minutes before that at 8:55 p.m.

The clip shared to the social media site now known as X shows Carlson opening with questioning why Trump decided to skip the debate with eight other Republican candidates.

The former President has repeatedly said debating these low-polling candidates is beneath him.

In the video, Trump tells the former Fox News host that their interview through a forum called Tucker on X will probably get ‘bigger ratings’ than the debate.

GOP hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy, 38, cheekily told ‘I’ll consider it’ when asked Tuesday if he planned to rap on the debate stage.

The biotech entrepreneur has been rising in the polls – leapfrogging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in several surveys – and likely needs a breakout moment at Wednesday night’s GOP debate to keep the momentum going.

And the one talent he’s previously deployed to make a statement has been his rapping skills.

Earlier this month at the Iowa State Fair, Ramaswamy ended an early morning event with Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds by performing a rendition of Eminem’s Lose Yourself.

While a student at Harvard, the now presidential contender had a side-hustle as a libertarian-minded rap artist who went by the stage name ‘Da Vek.’

Gov. Doug Burgum showed up for a debate venue walk-through on Wednesday on crutches after suffering an injury during a pick-up game of basketball with his campaign staff.

The 2024 hopeful’s plans were up in the air after he was rushed to a Milwaukee-area emergency room on Tuesday.

Burgum, a wealthy former software executive, showed up to Fiserv Forum arena a few hours before the debate on crutches.

He posted to Twitter, now known as X, an image in a boot and on crutches at the debate venue with the caption: ‘I’m in.’

Doug Burgum  @DougBurgumI'm in

President Biden says he’ll watch the first Republican debate

Joe Biden, after Pilates and spin classes on Wednesday, said he would watch the Republican primary debate Wednesday night – even though frontrunner Donald Trump opted to skip the event.

The President joked he had no expectations from the first formal gathering of Republicans attempting to defeat him in next year’s election.

‘I’m going to try to see — get as much as I can, yes,’ he told reporters earlier on Wednesday.

Asked what his expectations were, Biden smiled broadly and laughed: ‘I have none.’

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters after taking a Pilates and spin class in South Lake Tahoe, California, U.S., August 23, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Biden speaks to reporters while holding a blueberry smoothie after Pilates and spin classes on Wednesday in Tahoe, California. The President said he will watch the GOP debate