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RNC to Require Presidential Candidates Skip Nonpartisan Commission Debates

January 13, 2022 by Dan McCue
RNC to Require Presidential Candidates Skip Nonpartisan Commission Debates
President Donald Trump declined to clearly condemn white supremacist groups and their role in violence during 2020's first presidential debate, at one point telling the neo-fascist group "Proud Boys" to "stand back and stand by." (Associated Press photo)

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee has told the Committee on Presidential Debates that it plans to require candidates pledge they will not participate in presidential debates run by the nonpartisan commission.

In a letter dated Thursday, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tells the commission the party “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 C.P.D.-sponsored debates.” 

According to its website, the Commission on Presidential Debates was established 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.”

Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce the quadrennial general election debates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. It has been responsible for every presidential debate since 1988.

But Republicans have long complained that the debates favor the Democratic candidate, an accusation that reached its crescendo in 2020 when former President Donald Trump was the GOP nominee.

The letter says that the RNC’s unresolved concerns about the 2020 presidential debates “strike at the core of whether the [commission] credibly can provide a fair and impartial forum for presidential debates. 

The commission’s alleged failures included “waiting until after early voting had already begun to host the first presidential debate; making unilateral changes to previously agreed-upon debate formats and conditions, in some cases without even notifying the candidates; selecting a moderator who had once worked for the Democrat nominee, a glaring conflict of interest; and failing to maintain the organization’s strict nonpartisanship, with a majority of its board members publicly disparaging the Republican nominee.”

McDaniel has been seeking changes in how the debates are scheduled and handled since last spring. The change requiring candidates to refuse participation in the commission’s debates is to be voted on at the RNC winter meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, in February.

Prior to the creation of the commission, the two major political parties or the campaigns of the leading contenders for the White House negotiated over the debates, deciding ultimately whether they were held at all, and if they were, what the terms of engagement would be.

In a statement provided to The Well News responding to Thursday’s letter, the Commission said it “deals directly with candidates for president and vice president who qualify for participation.

“The C.P.D.’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,” the body said.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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