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American News Jan 14, 2022 12:07 AM EST

RNC may refuse to allow GOP candidates to participate with Commission on Presidential Debates

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel wrote a letter to the commission demanding changes to the commission and how debates are held, noting that the party and its voters had lost faith in the commission.

RNC may refuse to allow GOP candidates to participate with Commission on Presidential Debates
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A recent letter from the Republican National Committee is warning of rule changes for its candidates ahead of the 2024 election season, with presidential candidates seeking the party's nomination being required to sign a pledge stating that they will not participate in any debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

If the change highlighted in the committee's letter to the debate commission goes forward, it would mark one of the most substantial shifts in presidential debates since the commission began organizing debates over 30 years ago, according to The New York Times.

The change will be voted on at the RNC winter meeting in Salt Lake City in February.

"If the RNC moves forward with it, it is unclear what that would mean for future debates. But it would change the approach to be similar to what happened before the commission existed, when the two parties or campaigns had to negotiate directly and agree on terms, or no debates would take place," The New York Times reported.

In June, Republican Party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote a letter to the commission demanding changes to the commission and how debates are held, noting that the party and its voters had lost faith in the commission.

Commission officials have complained that RNC officials have conflated processes involved in primary debates with those in the general election, which are the only debates the commission is involved with.

The commission also complained that it in the past deals with individual campaigns, and not party committees.

"The CPD deals directly with candidates for President and Vice President who qualify for participation," the commission said in a statement. "The CPD's plans for 2024 will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues."

Commission officials already deemed one of the RNC's demands unacceptable in December, which requested having nonvoting representatives of either the RNC or the Democratic National Committee present at the commission's board meetings. The commission wrote that it is still studying that demand, as well as other concerns, as part of its review before the 2024 campaign cycle.

"We take the RNC's observations and suggestions seriously and, as we have said previously, we will give them careful consideration," the commission's letter read. "In furtherance of our position as a nonpartisan, neutral body, which neither favors nor disfavors any party or candidate, we do not negotiate the terms or conditions of our operations with anyone."

McDaniel's letter on Thursday though said the the commission's response seemed designed to "delay any reform until it is too late to matter for the 2024 election," adding that it was the RNC's duty to ensure a level playing field for its candidates in debates.

"So long as the CPD appears intent on stonewalling the meaningful reforms necessary to restore its credibility with the Republican Party as a fair and nonpartisan actor, the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere," McDaniel wrote.

She added that the RNC would start the process of changing its rules during its winter meeting "to prohibit future Republican nominees from participating in CPD-sponsored debates."

Another concern raised by the RNC regarding debates was the timing of the first one during the 2024 cycle, considering how more than one million ballots were cast before the first debate in 2020 due to pandemic voting changes.

Accordingly, the RNC is urging for the first debate to be held before early voting begins in 2024.

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