GOP Moves to Drop Out of Debates

Party considers making candidates sign a pledge to stay out of commission's events
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2022 5:05 PM CST
GOP Threatens to Abandon Debates
Officials from the Commission on Presidential Debates gather near the stage before the start of the debate in October 2020 in Nashville.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

(Newser) – GOP unhappiness with the commission that runs the presidential debates reached a peak Thursday, when the Republican National Committee told the nonprofit it wants its candidates to sit out the event in the future. The committee told the nonprofit in a letter that it plans to require its candidates to sign a pledge promising to stay out of future events sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the New York Times reports. Party Chair Ronna McDaniel referred in the letter to giving candidates an "opportunity elsewhere" to debate, but there's no word on what that forum would be or whether the Democratic Party would sign on.

McDaniel's Democratic counterpart accused the GOP of trying to hide its candidates from voters, per the Hill. "During the last presidential election, the Republicans decided to not have a platform for the first time ever so it's a natural progression," Jaime Harrison said. "First no platform and now no debates." The commission, which was launched by both parties in 1987 and is billed as nonpartisan, said the Republican Party wants changes in the way the debates are handled. Democrats have not called for any changes. If the commission blocks "meaningful reforms necessary to restore its credibility," McDaniel said, the party will look elsewhere.

A Republican official and a commission official have been talking for months about the party's complaints that Democrats are favored by the process. The commission said that as a neutral entity, "which neither favors nor disfavors any party or candidate," it doesn't negotiate over its process with anyone. Its officials wonder if someone's confusing the campaigns in the primary and general—when there's only one candidate left per party—races. The commission doesn't have anything to do with debates during the primaries. The RNC will vote on the pledge requirement next month. (Read more Commission on Presidential Debates stories.)

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