CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The two presidential candidates from South Carolina, former Gov. Nikki Haley, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, are set to appear alongside six other candidates at the first Republican primary debate Wednesday night in Milwaukee.
It is an opportunity for the presidential hopefuls to make their case in front of their biggest national audience so far this cycle ahead of the Iowa caucuses in January.
Haley and Scott will be looking to capitalize on the absence of former President Donald Trump, who said he wouldn’t participate instead opting to release an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Both candidates will also stand out demographically from their opponents– Haley as the only woman and woman of color and Scott as the only Black candidate on the stage — which will give them an opportunity to highlight their unique perspectives on critical issues.
“These two have managed to make their mark nationally, in part because they are candidates of color, and they have done it without emphasizing that fact,” said Danielle Vinson, a political science professor at Furman University. “It’s still a bit of a necessity in a Republican Party that wants to focus on a colorblind society that has made great strides.”
A breakthrough moment is just what Haley and Scott need if they hope to catch up to front-runners in the polls. While both have made gains among likely GOP voters in South Carolina, they have struggled to climb out of the single digits in national polls.
Haley, arguably one of the most qualified candidates on stage, will likely lean on her past legislative experience in the South Carolina state Legislature, as governor, and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration. The debate will provide an opportunity for Haley to highlight her experience in both foreign and domestic issues.
Scott, a well-liked figure within the GOP, will try to position himself as the best alternative to Trump over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by touting his strongly conservative platform. He could also use his positive persona to set himself apart on the debate stage if the other candidates turn toward attacks.
The two South Carolinians will be joined on stage by DeSantis, former Vice President Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on the debate stage Wednesday.
The debate will start at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday. It is being held at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum. Fox News is hosting the debate, with network hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum moderating it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.