R.N.C. to Block Candidates From Participating in Presidential Debates if ‘Meaningful Reforms’ Are Not Made

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

QUICK FACTS:
  • The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Thursday sent a letter to the Committee on Presidential Debates (CPD) threatening to block future GOP presidential nominees from debates if “meaningful reforms” are not made, Axios reports.
  • The RNC will require candidates to pledge to not participate in CPD-run debates.
  • The change requiring candidates to refuse participation in the commission’s debates is to be voted on at the R.N.C. winter meeting in Salt Lake City in February, The New York Times reports.
  • The change would make the process similar to what happened before the commission was created, when opposing campaigns had to negotiate directly and agree on terms, or no debates would take place.
WHAT THE RNC 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,” RNC chair Ronna McDaniel wrote.

“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,” she added.

BACKGROUND:
  • The change proposed by the RNC would be one of the “most substantial shifts in how presidential and vice-presidential debates have been conducted since the commission began organizing debates more than 30 years ago,” notes The Times.
  • Republicans have complained for nearly a decade that the CPD’s processes favor Democrats, although the nonprofit commission—founded by the two parties in 1987 to codify the debates as a permanent part of presidential elections—describes itself as nonpartisan.
  • President Donald Trump began criticizing the commission during his campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2016, when he complained that one of its co-chairs, Mike McCurry, was a White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, also complaining that the debates were being held at the same time as NFL games.