In a move that was foreseen months ago, the Republican National Committee unanimously voted Thursday to no longer participate in debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. And it wants a pledge from Republican candidates to only participate in debates it approves.
“Debates are an important part of the democratic process, and the RNC is committed to free and fair debates," RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. "The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates including hosting debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage."
The writing was on the wall in February when McDaniel used similar language.
The RNC will require Republican presidential candidates to sign a pledge to only appear at debates that are sanctioned by the committee, whether in the primary or general election, according to multiple reports.
However, once a nominee is chosen for the general election, that person becomes the de facto party leader. As NBC News points out, the nominee will have the ultimate say on which debates they will take part in.
What it all means for 2024 probably won't be known until that election cycle rolls around. The RNC said it is not opposed to taking part in debates, just not the ones sponsored by the commission.
The presidential debates, which CPD has sponsored since 1988, have long been a grievance of former President Donald Trump going back to his first Republican campaign in 2016. He suggested in 2019 that he might skip the 2020 debates, claiming the commission was "stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers."
Trump chose to skip the second of the three scheduled 2020 debates after organizers wanted to make it virtual due to the former president's COVID-19 diagnosis.