GOP Threatens to Bar Its Presidential Nominees From Participating in Some Debates

The Republican National Committee on Jan. 13 escalated a feud with the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), threatening to bar the party’s future presidential nominees from participating in debates organized by the panel.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, in a letter made public by the committee, told CPD leaders that because the panel is refusing to make changes to the way debates are planned and run, the organization is on track to remove Republicans from the equation.

“The RNC has a duty to ensure that its future presidential nominees have the opportunity to debate their opponents on a level playing field,” McDaniel said. “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.

“Accordingly, the RNC will initiate the process of amending the Rules of the Republican Party at our upcoming Winter Meeting to prohibit future Republican nominees from participating in CPD-sponsored debates.”

Republicans have grown increasingly disenfranchised with the debate commission, with several actions carried out during the 2020 election, including waiting to host the first debate between then-President Donald Trump and then-candidate Joe Biden until after early voting had started in eight states, leading to calls for changes.

Also at issue: many committee co-chairs and board of directors members have donated to Democrats and/or criticized Trump over the years, and the choice of Steve Scully, at the time with C-SPAN, to host a debate despite formerly working for Biden and fellow Democrat Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The RNC previously said it would urge the party’s candidates not to take part in debates organized by the CPD, but is stepping up its posture after it said CPD rejected proposed “commonsense reforms” such as adopting term limits for members of the board of directors and committing to holding at least one debate before the start of early voting.

“Unfortunately, the CPD’s responses so far seem designed to delay any reform until it is too late to matter for the 2024 election,” McDaniel said.

CPD officials didn’t respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment. The Democratic National Committee also didn’t respond to an inquiry.

The CPD, which describes itself as nonpartisan, was created in 1987 “to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates between or among the leading candidates for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States are a permanent part of the electoral process,” it says on its website.

The CPD imposed changes to the debate format after the first debate in 2020 between Trump and Biden, when moderator Chris Wallace, who recently left Fox News for CNN, repeatedly interjected, prompting Trump to quip that he was debating Wallace instead of Biden.

Zachary Stieber

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Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.

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