And then there were five.
Republican presidential candidates are facing a smaller field of contenders as they prepare for the third debate set for next week after former Vice President Mike Pence pulled out of the race.
With Pence out, it appears just five GOP rivals will likely vie for support at the debate in Miami on Wednesday as former President Donald Trump, who’s once again running for the White House, continues to skip the contests.
Sen. Tim Scott is the latest to qualify by reaching higher required thresholds for poll results and donor support.
He joins Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who are battling for a distant second place behind Trump, along with Vivek Ramaswamy and Trump critic Chris Christie.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum says he is still hoping to make the final cut when organizers announce the final field on Monday.
So far, the debates have not produced any game-changing moments in the GOP race. With Trump absent, the first two fights have amounted to battles for position among the rivals.
Ramaswamy made the biggest splash at the first debate, but turned off many voters with his know-it-all style.
DeSantis avoided any major stumbles but has not been the center of attention despite being ahead of the others in the polls.
Haley registered strong performances in both polls, fueling a modest surge in polls that her supporters hope she can use as a springboard to leapfrog DeSantis into second place.
Trump says he doesn’t plan to take part in the debates because he is running so far ahead, a strategy that has been vindicated so far by the mostly yawn-inducing showings by his rivals.